East Africa: Malawi Benefits From Comesa Digital Financial Inclusion Plan

Malawi is among the top five countries in Africa to benefit from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) digital financial inclusion plan.

The regional bloc, Comesa is implementing a digital financial inclusion plan aimed at promoting trade within the region and includes marginalised communities, which are excluded in terms of financial inclusion.

This was made known last week at a high-powered business case validation meeting held in Lusaka, Zambia.

Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi Dr. Dalitso Kabambe in his keynote speech said: "Interoperability is key to commercial banks and network operators for the uptake of digital financial services; it enhances Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) trade through facilitation of seamless money transfer."

Comesa Business Council chief executive officer, Sandra Uwera expressed gratitude to the Malawi Government for supporting the Digital financial Inclusion initiatives, which will increase intra-trade within COMESA region by at least 10% annually.

Project Manager for Digital Financial Inclusion at COMESA Business Council, Dr. Jonathan Pinifolo said: "The North-South corridor is the most extensive corridor system in the region, linking the largest number of countries in eastern and southern Africa.

"The countries we are working with in this region include Malawi and Zambia, and out of the 21 countries, they have picked nine countries in Africa based on the trade activities taking place within the various trade corridors."

According to Pinifolo, the nine countries include; Mauritius, Egypt, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania in EAC.

Pinifolo further explained that Comesa has already developed a business case report and follow up interventions which include harmonising Finance and ICT policy frameworks within the region, capacity building of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)

"We have also developed the commissioning of a regional integrated digital common payment scheme incorporating commercial banks, Mobile Network Operators, Fintechs and other institutions providing financial services," said Pinifolo.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, Assistant Secretary General for Programmes at COMESA, Ambassador Dr. Kipyego Cheluget said that COMESA as a strong advocate for enterprise growth and development of our local and regional markets, the meeting was held in a timely period when they are focusing on the growth of Small and Medium enterprises.

"Africa's economic transformation lies in the ability to increase value addition and strengthen the participation of our SMEs in national and regional supply chains", said Cheluget.

Among other institutions, the business case validation was attended by Reserve Bank of Malawi, MACRA, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Malawi Confederation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), Commercial banks (National Bank of Malawi and Standard Bank), Telecommunication Operators (Airtel and MTL), NITEL, SPARC Systems, ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM), NABW, Bayer, National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), Legis Policy Associates from Kenya and Kiani Holdings from South Africa.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa is a free trade area with twenty-one member states stretching from Tunisia to Eswatini.

Comesa was established when a treaty was signed on November 5, 1993, in Kampala, Uganda, and then ratified the following year in Lilongwe, Malawi, on December 8, 1994. It replaced the former Preferential Trade Area (PTA) that existed in 1981.

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