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FINCA TRAILBLAZES DIGITAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION DRIVE IN TANZANIA

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FINCA TRAILBLAZES DIGITAL FINANCIAL INCLUSION DRIVE IN TANZANIA

Country’s fastest growing micro-finance institution partners with the Mastercard Foundation to boost Africa’s financial inclusion

Efforts to bolster digital financial inclusion in Tanzania and indeed other countries in Africa have received a shot-in-the-arm following a productive conference organized by FINCA Micro-Finance Bank Tanzania (www.FINCA.co.tz) in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation (www.MastercardFdn.org).

Bringing in experts, institutions and other players in the financial sector, the conference, held in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, culminated in a pledge by the participants to work more closely in collaboration with governments, telecoms and other financial sector players to come up with innovative and effective means of providing financial services to the base of the pyramid at scale and low cost.

To achieve its objectives, the conference underscored the instrumental role played by collaborative efforts by all sectors through leveraging rapid development in the MNO space, especially mobile money.

Riding on its wide-ranging theme, ‘Driving Financial Inclusion Through Digital Solutions; Implications for Sector Players’- the event, drawing more than 100 participants, provided a most ideal platform to share key lessons and insights learned over the past 5 years through the FINCA – Mastercard Foundation partnership to scale financial services to the unbanked communities in Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.

“Digital technology models are catalysts to financial inclusion and the development of the digital ecosystem is key to increasing access to finance”, said FINCA’s Chief Executive Officer, Issa Ngwegwe, in his opening remarks.

Ngwegwe extolled FINCA’s rigorous efforts in driving financial inclusion through various products and services over the years, including partnerships with mobile network operators in bringing financial services and products to communities particularly in peripheral areas that would otherwise miss out from banking products and opportunities they bring in developing businesses and raising standards of living.

He further continued to explain: “Digital platforms, such as mobile and agency banking are key in reducing the cost of reaching the millions of Tanzanians who are still unbanked. Partnerships with mobile network operators show great potential in scaling financial services more efficiently”.

Speaking on the partnership between FINCA and the Mastercard Foundation, FINCA Canada’s Executive Director, Stephanie Emond said that this partnership had helped FINCA lay a firm foundation for growth through leveraging financial and learning technologies to improve services and build FINCA’s capacity, while also improving its ability to better understand the needs of its clients and the impact that its financial inclusion efforts had on them.

“We hope that through this conference, we can share some of the lessons from our recent journey and foster more collaboration amongst the space to better address market constraints and help create an enabling environment for accessible and responsible financial services”, Stephanie said.

Available statistics show that collaboration by various financial services and telecommunications sector has had positive and impactful result as evidenced by the increase in the usage of financial services throughout Tanzania from 58 per cent in 2013 to 65 per cent in 2017. However, despite these impressive statistics, a lot more needs to be done in order to ensure a more productive inclusion.

Key takeaways from the conference included:

  • A call to the government to create an enabling environment for financial access by having supportive laws and regulations.
  • Having a collaborative approach among the government, the private sector and civil society organizations.
  • Embracing technology that lowers costs and extends services into areas where bank branches may not exist.
  •  Active efforts to assist the newly included people to take advantage of the services placed at their disposal.
  • A call for more collaboration among stakeholders from various sectors and in particular the telecommunication sector to address challenges of access to financial services and share best practices and encourage policies that enable more people to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their lives.

The chief guest at the event was Dr. AshatuKijaji, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Finance and Planning who underscored the government’s commitment to supporting financial inclusion to the poorest and most excluded while also ensuring proper rules and regulations to protect consumers.

Speaking at the event, the Deputy Governor of Bank of Tanzania (BoT), YamunguKayandabila said that the Bank had put in place robust regulatory framework and policies aimed at supporting financial inclusion efforts in Tanzania.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FINCA Microfinance Bank Tanzania.

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout

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UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook’s one-week media blackout in Australia.

Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.

“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.

“We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them.”

Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets did not currently function properly.

He spoke after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister.

“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.

Facebook said in a statement that the call had been constructive, and that it had already struck commercial deals with most major publishers in Britain.

“Nick strongly agreed with the Secretary of State’s (Dowden’s) assertion that the government’s general preference is for companies to enter freely into proper commercial relationships with each other,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June.

It is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action toward “promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.

The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada, but Australia has also been invited.

Britain is working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data, and introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)

 

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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit

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Britain to offer fast-track visas to bolster fintechs after Brexit 2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Friday it would offer a fast-track visa scheme for jobs at high-growth companies after a government-backed review warned that financial technology firms will struggle with Brexit and tougher competition for global talent.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak said that now Britain has left the European Union, it wants to make sure its immigration system helps businesses attract the best hires.

“This new fast-track scale-up stream will make it easier for fintech firms to recruit innovators and job creators, who will help them grow,” Sunak said in a statement.

Over 40% of fintech staff in Britain come from overseas, and the new visa scheme, open to migrants with job offers at high-growth firms that are scaling up, will start in March 2022.

Brexit cut fintechs’ access to the EU single market and made it far harder to employ staff from the bloc, leaving Britain less attractive for the industry.

The review published on Friday and headed by Ron Kalifa, former CEO of payments fintech Worldpay, set out a “strategy and delivery model” that also includes a new 1 billion pound ($1.39 billion) start-up fund.

“It’s about underpinning financial services and our place in the world, and bringing innovation into mainstream banking,” Kalifa told Reuters.

Britain has a 10% share of the global fintech market, generating 11 billion pounds ($15.6 billion) in revenue.

The review said Brexit, heavy investment in fintech by Australia, Canada and Singapore, and the need to be nimbler as COVID-19 accelerates digitalisation of finance, all mean the sector’s future in Britain is not assured.

It also recommends more flexible listing rules for fintechs to catch up with New York.

“We recognise the need to make the UK attractive a more attractive location for IPOs,” said Britain’s financial services minister John Glen, adding that a separate review on listings rules would be published shortly.

“Those findings, along with Ron’s report today, should provide an excellent evidence base for further reform.”

SCALING UP

Britain pioneered “sandboxes” to allow fintechs to test products on real consumers under supervision, and the review says regulators should move to the next stage and set up “scale-boxes” to help fintechs navigate red tape to grow.

“It’s a question of knowing who to call when there’s a problem,” said Kay Swinburne, vice chair of financial services at consultants KPMG and a contributor to the review.

A UK fintech wanting to serve EU clients would have to open a hub in the bloc, an expensive undertaking for a start-up.

“Leaving the EU and access to the single market going away is a big deal, so the UK has to do something significant to make fintechs stay here,” Swinburne said.

The review seeks to join the dots on fintech policy across government departments and regulators, and marshal private sector efforts under a new Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT).

“There is no framework but bits of individual policies, and nowhere does it come together,” said Rachel Kent, a lawyer at Hogan Lovells and contributor to the review.

($1 = 0.7064 pounds)

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Jane Merriman and John Stonestreet)

 

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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF

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G20 to show united front on support for global economic recovery, cash for IMF 3

By Michael Nienaber and Andrea Shalal

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/ROME (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders are expected on Friday to agree to continue supportive measures for the global economy and look to boost the International Monetary Fund’s resources so it can help poorer countries fight off the effects of the pandemic.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the world’s top 20 economies, called the G20, held a video-conference on Friday. The global response to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus was at top of the agenda.

In the first comments by a participating policymaker, the European Union’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the meeting had been “good”, with consensus on the need for a common effort on global COVID vaccinations.

“Avoid premature withdrawal of supportive fiscal policy” and “progress towards agreement on digital and minimal taxation” he said in a Tweet, signalling other areas of apparent accord.

A news conference by Italy, which holds the annual G20 presidency, is scheduled for 17.15 (1615 GMT)

The meeting comes as the United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies going despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus mean the future of the recovery remains uncertain.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned earlier on Friday that recovery was taking longer than expected and it was too early to roll back support.

“Contrary to what had been hoped for, we cannot speak of a full recovery yet. For us in the G20 talks, the central task remains to lead our countries through the severe crisis,” Scholz told reporters ahead of the virtual meeting.

“We must not scale back the support programmes too early and too quickly. That’s what I’m also going to campaign for among my G20 colleagues today,” he said.

BIDEN DEBUT

Hopes for constructive discussions at the meeting are high among G20 countries because it is the first since Joe Biden, who vowed to rebuild cooperation in international bodies, became U.S. president.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too – factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, hit by a wave of domestic coronavirus infections, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter with new lockdowns clouding the outlook.

“The initially hoped-for V-shaped recovery is now increasingly looking rather more like a long U-shaped recovery. That is why the stabilization measures in almost all G20 states have to be maintained in order to continue supporting the economy,” a G20 official said.

But while the richest economies can afford to stimulate an economic recovery by borrowing more on the market, poorer ones would benefit from being able to tap credit lines from the IMF — the global lender of last resort.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by then U.S. President Donald Trump.

Scholz said the change of administration in Washington on Jan. 20 improved the prospects for more IMF resources. He pointed to a letter sent by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to G20 colleagues on Thursday, which he described as a positive sign also for efforts to reform global tax rules.

Civil society groups, religious leaders and some Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have called for a much larger allocation of IMF resources, of $3 trillion, but sources familiar with the matter said they viewed such a large move as unlikely for now.

The G20 may also agree to extend a suspension of debt servicing for poorest countries by another six months.

($1 = 0.8254 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Gavin Jones in Rome; Andrea Shalal and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Susan Fenton and Crispian Balmer)

 

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