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Digital Inclusion

African governments must be enablers of innovation

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For African citizens to be able to innovate and participate digitally, African governments need to create an enabling environment.

These were sentiments shared by the Association of Fintechs in Kenya's SG, Munyi Nthigah, during a panel discussion about e-governance and digital finance in Africa held at the Africa eGovernance Conference (AfreGov) in Kigali, Rwanda this week.

"An enabling environment is both political and economic. There has to be political will and support. We can talk about governments and the private sector collaborating but how do governments affirm the private sector and say, yes, we support the innovation you are bringing," he said.

"As we collaborate and invest in the digital economy, we must measure the outcome, allowing development partners to come and mobilize the right foreign investment on the continent," Nthigah added.

He said when governments have laid the foundation and created enabling environments, the private sector can then come in and innovate.

Nthigah praised the work that the Rwandan government has done in creating programs that work, agreeing with Rwanda's minister of ICT and innovation, Paula Ingabire, who said that innovative initiatives required government buy-in and progressive regulation.

Partnerships are needed to connect the underserved

Diana Akullu Wanyama, intervention manager – financial sector deepening Uganda, said that in order for governments to create enabling environments for innovation, underserved communities need to be included.

"For that to happen, a lot of partnerships need to happen – financial institutions, telcos as well as e-money issuers need to work together," she explained.

Rwanda's Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire.  (Source: Africa eGovernance Conference).
Rwanda's Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire.
(Source: Africa eGovernance Conference).

"There is a huge gap between these entities, for example, in Uganda, we have 5 million people who are banked versus over 20 million who are not, therefore, partnerships are needed to create innovative services to reach underserved communities," she continued.

The panelists agreed that Africa needs a regulatory framework that is also enabling.


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In an interview with Connecting Africa, commenting on the Central Bank of Kenya recently licensing 51 digital lenders, Nthigah said even though there are bad apples in many digital economies, that shouldn't hinder governments from creating enabling digital environments.

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*Top image source: Africa eGovernance Conference.

Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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