Mobile digital space link for economic inclusion

With its coming; those without access to financial services were provided platform for such services as deposits and withdraws even savings.

However, it doesnโ€™t end there because as per regulation mobile money transactions also provide for payment of bills and remittance of funds through use of electronic money via banks and telecommunication service providers.

Utilizing this space hasnโ€™t only been one individual to another; government too has been on this platform.

Talking of government and itโ€™sโ€™ people; 2019 comes to mind when the state rolled-out a Covid-19 emergency cash transfer relief program targeting poverty hotspots identified through a social economic and household vulnerability assessment.

Under this scheme; for a period of over three months beneficiaries received 35,000.00 kwacha all through mobile money systems.

Olive Ngulube is one beneficiary of electronic financial transaction and said โ€œI use TNM Mpamba, the platform helps me to keep my money and it is very easy to send and receive money, this is my bank nowโ€.

Facilities such as this one are found in locations.

This seems a revolution Malawi seems to be embracing.

Evidence is readings from a 2021 World Bank report which indicates 40 percent of the Malawi adult population is using financial institutions.

For a country with dismal penetration of electronic financial devices like phones it comes as good news to witness a country on a digital transformation path with increased access to finance with digital financial service.

No wonder; with it banking has become more accessible even that population in rural areas with very dismal physical presence of banking institutions.

With this, the importance of micro finance institutions in providing credit and other financial services at the doorstep of financially excluded households come to light.

Symon Magenje โ€“ branch manager for FINCOOP Savings and Credit Cooperative Limited shares of what has become of rural communities in accessing financial services using digital platforms.

โ€œEvery month we come with mobile banking van and those members who want to save they can save with us, people should not go to Mzuzu to access a bank and we have also trained them on digital platform, when they have got money they can bank using their mobile platformโ€ said Magenje.

Hearing Magenje; it doesnโ€™t become a surprise that a Reserve Bank of Malawi national payment system report of 2022 indicates an increased in digital financial services by 36.8 percent in volume and 43.8 percent in value to 1.0 trillion and to K14.0 trillion, respectively.

So what does this mean?

Tione Kafumbu โ€“ marketing manager for TNM Mpamba platform breaks it down.

โ€œMobile money services come with a benefit that you would not find in other conventional means in terms of security, availability as well as the reach that is there for the customers who are using these services especially if you look at some of the times that people access money, as well as the availability of agents, that gives convenience to access, send and receive money quite easily without having any challengesโ€ said Kafumbu.

On the other hand Clarence Gama, President of the ICT association of Malawi takes it all on collaboration as a key vehicle in advancing digital financial inclusion towards bridging the financial infrastructure gap.

Gama: The efforts are paying dividends.

โ€œThe agency banking model that we have in most parts of Malawi has enabled expansion of banking services to everyone and even those people who wouldnโ€™t have been able to take closer to a proper bank are now being assisted and we have seen this and more banks are nowย  putting in place this modelโ€ said Gama.

He added that โ€œwe can attribute it to the digital payment platforms ad here am talking about the introduction of digital payment platforms in overall, now people can send and receive money, digitally paying bills, making purchases and we have seen some banks even creating a platform which enables an easy payment via digitalโ€.

But thereโ€™re other advantages too but not only limited to speed, efficiency and convenience.

Kumbukani Chawanda, a community based financial organization specialist with Financial Access for Markets, Small Holder and Enterprise project feels the upsurge in both the volume of transactions can as well be attributed to the growing customer confidence in usage of electronic payment channels.

โ€œMuch that we are doing through agency banking is just to increase access points for the people that want to open bank accounts, those that want to save through formal financial institutions and even when they get loans, their repayments should not go to town to pay back a loan when they can use these platformsโ€ said Chawanda.

She added โ€œagency banking is coming in to reduce the distance that people have to travel to save their money or even just checking their balanceโ€.

However, the more evolution on the mobile money and digital space the more sophisticated digital fraudsters are growing.

Agents are being defrauded and so are mobile money customers with huge sums of money being stolen by syndicates in prisons, a concern for Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe.

โ€œMy concern is that, we need the regulator to civic educate us on digital money related fraud, let them teach us to avoid scammers and how we can report them to relevant authorities,โ€ said Chikulamayembe.

To tame this insecurity communications regulator โ€“ MACRA says through its director general Daudi Suleman they continue to monitor cyber theft through their fraud management system and raising fraud awareness.

Suleman: We are going the right way.

โ€œThe issue of mobile money fraud is an emerging issue that has a serious risk attached to it in our bid to digitize the economy of Malawi, in our bid to ensure that every Malawian is connected, the more people stay away from digital payments the harder it will be for us to reach a digital economy phase where a lot of services and good ought to go toโ€ said Suleman.

The MACRA Director General added โ€œwe do understand that the problem is cross cutting, the solution does not lie with MACRA alone, so MACRA together with the Malawi Prison Services, the Malawi Police Service, the Malawi Defense Force, Airtel Money, TNM Mpamba as well as all the regulated banks we have formed technical task groups that are working togetherโ€.

Given its sensitivity, Police chief – Merlyne Yolamu feels ending digital fraud must begin with raising awareness about the existing laws under the electronic transaction and cyber security act.

โ€œTypical in the fight of digital crime is the Cyber Crime Unit that we have in the Malawi Police Service, what we are doing right now is to expose all those investigators that are dealing with Cyber Crimes into trainings, we sent some to India and some are doing forensic at the University of Malawiโ€ said Yolamu

When this shall be done โ€ฆ as recommended by the World Bank Malawi shall continue on the path for higher economic growth, faster poverty reductions and financial inclusion towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

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