The Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) International Growth Centre (IGC) recently held a three-day West African Sub-regional workshop on mobile financial services.
The workshop sought to find ways of integrating the marginalised and poor people in mobile financial services and lesson learning from other African countries. The meeting fostered peer-to-peer learning and sharing experiences from other sub-Saharan African countries and included delegates from Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda.
According to the IGC, West Africa in general and Sierra Leone in particular are far behind its African counterparts in mobile financial services and the conference seeks to, among other things, identify areas for reforms to existing policies and regulations and map out potential areas of further research that would promote the optimal use of financial inclusion in Sierra Leone.
Sudipto Mukerjee, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director, says “this convening is a great opportunity to identify necessary policy and regulatory reforms and also potential partnerships to not only integrate excluded and marginalized groups into the formal economy but also to ensure that they contribute towards financing for sustainable economic development in one of the least banked regions of the world.”
Globally, financial sector policymakers recognize the game-changing potential of digital financial inclusion. Specifically, regulators are increasingly recognising the major role that non-bank providers of mobile money services can play in fostering financial inclusion and, as such, are introducing more enabling regulatory frameworks that allow both banks and non-banks to provide mobile money services in a sustainable way. The workshop made contributions to the ongoing work by the G20 and global financial regulators to prepare the standard-setting world for both the risks and the rewards of the digitization of financial services.
Day 1 of the workshop focused on lessons from East and Southern Africa for central bank delegates from the West African countries that are part of WAMZ. Day 2 focused on country-specific strategies, benefiting from experience and inputs from countries such as Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. The final day of the workshop focused on regional cooperation and integration.
UNDP and UNCDF’s support to this event is part of the West African Digital Financial Inclusion Programme for Fragile States 2016 – 2019.