The 2nd African Mobile Phone Financial Services Policy Initiative (AMPI) Leaders Roundtable meeting held 4-6 February 2014 in Naivasha, Kenya, was a historic event and tremendous step forward in moving the region toward collectively focusing on harnessing and further enabling the expansion of digital financial inclusion across Africa.
The roundtable, co-hosted by the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), convened many of the key central banks in the region, along with several governors and deputy governors. It also marked one of the first times that high level private sector stakeholders, including bankers, representatives from telecommunication companies, microfinance institutions, e-money providers, payment operators and development partners, participated. Together they discussed a joint vision forward for AMPI during the 2014-2016 period.
The region’s progress was highlighted at the meeting, notably in terms of the growth, innovation and deepening of digital financial services focused on financial inclusion.
Professor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, Governor at the Bank of Uganda, pointed out: “Mobile financial services have been catalyzed by exponential growth.” In the past few years, Africa has continued to be a leader in mobile financial services and a shift to broadening these services to support additional players and extend outreach was clearly evident among the shared experiences of AMPI member nations and leading private sector stakeholders during the meeting.
AFI members of the AMPI Help Desk shared the preliminary results of the comparative mobile financial service country profiles of a select group of member countries in the region. This unique comparative data on regulations not only highlighted several positive trends but also identified areas for improvement such as the need to better enhance consumer protection regulations and practices around digital financial services. Regulators openly shared their experiences from the last year as well as innovations that are taking the market in new directions. The success of linkages between various players and industry groups from telecommunication companies, financial institutions, third-party e-money operators, insurance companies and payment providers is noticeably broadening and expanding financial inclusion. It was also apparent that appropriate regulations are creating new market opportunities and further supporting the more rapid expansion of new digital financial inclusive products and services.
The roundtable provided a unique opportunity to explore what makes private sector partnerships successful or failures, and the role of regulators to support these partnerships. The consensus of AMPI representatives was that greater public-private sector dialogues is one of the most effective ways to help support and move the industry forward.
Development partners shared their experiences and engaged in a candid dialogue with regulators about the most effective ways to improve their support. Regulators and development partners agreed that the expertise and experience in the oversight and supervision of mobile financial services was with the participating central banks at the meeting. The consensus among participants was that the best way for development partners to support a positive enabling regulatory environment was to further improve peer-to-peer learning and peer-supported capacity building.
At the end of the enriching dialogue between the various stakeholders, several key areas of interest were agreed upon for the joint vision of AMPI moving forward in the next three years:
1) The development and expansion of a regular regional and comparative surveys of the regulatory frameworks as well as better tracking access and usage indicators of digital financial services in the region;
2) Improved support for peer-based capacity building efforts;
3) Further knowledge sharing focused on regional practical experiences and training as well as building on key areas that AFI has been working on in its Mobile Financial Services Working Group. This includes oversight and supervision as well as consumer protection regulatory practices for digital financial services, interoperability, and mobile-enabled cross border remittances;
4) Continued ways to further enhance and promote public-private sector dialogues, particularly as new digital financial products and services are being developed and offered in the market;
5) Closer engagement through AFI to explore ways development partners can better support specific AMPI efforts;
6) The proposal from AMPI leaders to further enhance and share their experiences within the region by actively engaging all the other central banks in Africa which are not yet members to join AFI and further expand the AMPI membership.
“This joint vision for AMPI is key for us. We see the importance of identifying critical success factors, which drive the uptake and scale of mobile phone financial services among AMPI member countries,” said Professor Njuguna Ndung’u, Governor at the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) and outgoing AMPI Chair. “It is very important to share those solutions that have worked, those challenges that have found solutions, and even to seek convergence in what we can do in different member countries.”
To read the full article, go to the AFI website.