Malawi Offers Support for Digital Payments

Malawi is keen to encourage a digital payment environment for the country as part of its efforts to tackle poverty and drive inclusive growth.

An event organized by the government with the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s (UNCDF) Better Than Cash Alliance and Mobile Money for the Poor initiatives, brought together digital payments players to accelerate the progress of digital finance in Malawi.

The event was also marked by the release of an in-depth analysis of the country’s readiness to transition from a nearly cash-only economy to one where digital payments are widely available through an ecosystem approach.

“Malawi is moving forward to build a strong digital ecosystem that will respond to the needs of the people in the country,” said Tillman Bruett, advisor and programme manager, Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P), a UNCDF initiative, undertaken in Malawi with the support of the US Agency for International Development.

“We expect that as a result, Malawi will progress from 3.5% of total active adult population using digital financial services at the start of this year to 15% by 2019. As part of the programme, UNCDF plans to provide technical and financial assistance to build capacity in public and private sector organisations to support the switch from cash to digital for the most promising payments streams identified in the research.”

The country’s approach has been cited an example for other countries in the early stages of transitioning to digital payments. “Digitisation is an important development tool for many countries looking to reduce the cost of delivering payments, increase transparency and increase access to financial services for citizens,” said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, managing director of the Better Than Cash Alliance, which Malawi is a member of.

“By undertaking this research and by using it to plan its shift, Malawi has taken a bold step in increasing transparency and moving towards an economy where the government, businesses and people can pay and get paid electronically.”

According to UNCDF, in least developed countries such as Malawi mobile penetration is at 30% while access to a bank account is at 14%. Mobile payments can therefore be one way to accelerate this shift.

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