Bank of Uganda he ministry of financedata shows that 15% of all adult Ugandans have no access to any financial services while more than more than 40 rely on informal financial services.
More still, over half of Uganda’s adults are forced to keep their savings at home because of a lack of access to formal financial services. Not only is this not safe, but it slows the country’s growth as large numbers of citizens remain financially excluded from formal financial services.
This has necessitated stakeholders partnering in digital payments to strengthen financial inclusion in the country.
To combat this, Mastercard and FSD (Financial Sector Deepening) Uganda have entered into a memorandum of understanding with a goal of partnering to develop financial services and solutions that will improve livelihoods of Ugandans and strengthen the country’s economy.
The partnership, announced during Financial Inclusion Week, will allow Mastercard, including the Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion, and FSD Uganda to focus on achieving their target in the key sectors of education, agriculture, trade and health by creating and rolling out secure and simple digital payments solutions.
“Digital payments have played an important role in connecting Ugandans to financial services securely and seamlessly: 53 out of every 100 Ugandan adults have transacted because of mobile money solutions, for instance, which shows us that the ability to include people in the economy is driven by innovative digital solutions,” said Chris Bwakira, Vice President and Area Business Head, East Africa at Mastercard.
Ugandans have also indicated a healthy appetite for digital – and mobile, in particular. “Mobile penetration sits at 65 percent and continues to grow rapidly, illustrating that as businesses, we should be targeting solutions that are convenient for citizens and that are easily accessible and available on platforms that they have adopted and use regularly,” Bwakira said.
He added that it was for that reason that the Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion is working on an education payments project in Uganda which will be followed soon by an agricultural payments project next year. Solutions developed by Mastercard and FSD Uganda will seek to close these gaps and build on the education pilot, eventually linking to other initiatives not only in education but also in agriculture, trade and health – core sectors in Uganda’s economy. Approximately 60 percent of Uganda’s citizens are involved in agriculture, for example, making pioneering tools and solutions in these areas a driver of growth.
The two partners have also committed to focus on meeting objectives in specific areas, most notably in protecting consumers, driving engagement with government surrounding policy, as well as carrying out research and partnering with other critical stakeholders to share knowledge and expertise around financial inclusion.
Other areas of interest include customer education and awareness building aimed primarily at people who have been traditionally excluded from banking and financial services, engagement with the Ugandan government around policies creating a more enabling environment for investment in financial services and information technology.
“Uganda takes building a more inclusive economy extremely seriously, as evidenced in the recently launched National Financial Inclusion Strategy 2017-2022. Strategic partnerships between organizations with the same values such as FSD Uganda and Mastercard, are an important step on the journey towards creating a country where financial services are accessible, affordable and beneficial to all,” said Ms. Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa, Executive Director at FSD Uganda.
Bwakira agreed, adding that a greater roll out and uptake of digital payment solutions will feed into Uganda’s overall National Financial Inclusion Strategy, which runs until 2022 and aims to increase access to formal financial services. “Addressing the challenges that face ordinary Ugandans, particularly rural and low-income citizens, cannot be solved overnight, but with continued partnerships and the introduction of tools and services that allow more people to access formal financial services, we are making definitive strides in the right direction,” he said.