• Authored By: Alon Mwesigwa
18 Aug 2023

Kampala August 17, 2023. The Economic Policy Research Centre, in partnership with the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), on Thursday August 17, 2023, hosted a half-day dissemination workshop at Sheraton Kampala for studies on digital financial services and financial inclusion in Uganda.

The workshop was held under the theme, Actionable Policies for Financial Inclusion, and featured participants in the fintech business, banking and non-banking sectors and industry regulators, business associations, telecommunication companies among others.

The studies presented were commissioned by AERC under the ‘Delivering Digital Financial Services for the Poor in the East African Community (DFSP-EAC) project implemented in six East Africa countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi’ funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana, the EPRC Executive Director, in remarks read on her behalf by EPRC Director of Research Dr Ibrahim Kasirye, said the studies were particularly significant as they touched areas that need attention from policy makers.

She said: “The majority of women excluded from the formal financial system around the globe, about one billion in total, are found in developing countries such as Uganda. At times, something as simple as [not having] a national identity card (ID) has proved to be a significant barrier to accessing formal financial services for women.”

She added that digital financial services have so much promise to bridge the financial inclusion gap although women, and some men, especially in rural areas, still find themselves on the wrong side of the coin. She said barriers such as internet cost, the high likelihood of not owning a basic mobile phone for women, social norms such as ‘a woman is not supposed to own a phone,’ or the need to seek permission from the husband to open a bank account have proved insurmountable.

Dr. Tom Kimani, the Lead Manager, Training, at the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC, said the studies would add to the body of knowledge in understanding the digital financial services in Uganda; and identify policy gaps and areas of opportunities as well as discuss strategies to address challenges hindering the DFSs.

Rhyming with previous research, studies clearly show men were advantaged over women hence more likely to be financially included. Social norms still occupy everyday life of many rural households and hinder women’s uptake of some digital technologies.  Also, women are hindered by the cost of internet, lack of network in rural areas, and lack of basic equipment such as a mobile phone.

Dr. Michael Atingi-Ego, the Deputy Governor Bank of Uganda (BOU), noted that technological innovations have come with innovative products and services such as digital credit, savings, investment partnerships, micro-insurance, and efficient payment platforms. These have proved handy in cost-cutting and bridging financial exclusion gaps.  He added, in a speech read on his behalf by the BOU Director of Finance Mr. Richard Byarugaba, that some players tend to be short-sighted to focus on profit maximization only. This makes the products unaffordable and out of reach of many that would otherwise benefit from them.

Studies presented at the workshop are;

  • Digital finance policy and its impact on financial inclusion in Uganda by Nicholas Okot and Elizabeth Kasekende.
  • Gender digital financing divide in Uganda: a quantitative analysis of social-economic factors by Ambrose Ogwang, Rehema Kahunde, Maya Denis Makika.
  • The monetary economics of e-money and policy implications: evidence from Uganda by NicholasOkot, Isaac M.B. Shinyekwa, Enock N.W. Bulime and Justine Luwedde.
  •  Leveraging digital services and market development for financial inclusion by Isaac M. B.Shinyekwa, Dablin Mpuuga, Aida K. Nattabi and Enock, N.W. Bulime.

 From the same project but not presented:

  1. Early evidence of the impact of mobile money on monetary stability in Uganda by Jimmy Apaa Okello.

 

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