By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
ZAMBIA has been earmarked for the first pilot project of the digital payment platform for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region meant to promote financial inclusion.
The execution of the project is slated to start in January next year and will be up and running the same year in June.
To plan for the implementation of the project, COMESA through its Business Council (CBC) will next week convene the 5th Digital Financial Inclusion Public-Private Dialogue in Malawi to validate the draft operational plan.
This project will be piloted in eight with Zambia being the first followed by Malawi, CBC Chief Executive Officer Teddy Soobramanien told the media in Lusaka yesterday.
“This is a game changer for COMESA. This scheme represents a remarkable opportunity to drive economic growth and financial empowerment for all Financial inclusion ecosystems are key to sustainable development and economic progress,” Mr Soobramanien said.
Mr. Soobramanien explained that the focus of the project was on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that were engines of innovation, job creation, and poverty reduction.
“By harnessing the power of digital technology, we can unlock the unprecedented opportunities for them, empowering them to realize their full potential and contribute to the region’s prosperity,” he said.
At the meeting for next week, Mr. Soobramanien said CBC would hold the Zambia-Malawi Proof of Concept Workshop to exemplify the feasibility and benefits of the retail payment platform.
He outlined that stakeholders from the banking sector, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sectors, including mobile service providers, were among the participants.
And CBC Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Pinifolo, told the media that digital penetration among SMEs in the region was currently at 30 percent with most traders conducting cash transactions.
Dr Pinifolo said the SMEs through the retail digital payment platform would be able to access finance from commercial banks using statements from the online transactions as collateral.
“The payment system will lower the cost of transactions with traders being able to send money for as low as US$1 regardless of the amount,” he said.
By BUUMBA CHIMBULU