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A new joint initiative in digital finance that aims to bring together digital financial service players in Ethiopia and improve digital financial inclusion was formed this week, on May 10, 2022.  

Dubbed the Digital Financial Services Working Group, the endeavor is comprised of members from financial service providers, Fintech companies, Mobile Network Operators, Remittance Service Providers, Pension, and Insurance Providers.

The working group that pushes for the wide-scale adoption of digital financial services (DFS), a range of formal financial services that can be accessed through digital channels, including payments, credit, savings, remittances, and insurance, will operate with a leadership committee as well as a memorandum of understanding. 

The launch event that kick-started the group by the appointment of leaders followed two prior meetings where discussions were held between stakeholders on the need, context, design, structure, and governance of the working group.

Accordingly, Yoseph Kibret, CEO of Premier Switch Solutions, and Nael Hailemariam, co-founder and general manager of Chapa Financial Technologies, were elected as Chair and Vice-chair of the group. 

Yoseph holds over 25 years of experience in Ethiopia’s digital financial service industry. He is a certified digital financial practitioner from Tuft University, USA, and the vice president of the Association of Ethiopian Digital Finance Practitioners. Yoseph has been leading Premier Switch, a digital company that integrates the services of several banks, since 2019. 

Meanwhile, the Vice-chair, Nael, is a young entrepreneur who holds his Master’s Degree in Data Science & Information Technology from Tsinghua. The fintech company he co-founded, Chapa, plans to provide payment gateway, mobile payment, and bill aggregation services.

“The formation of such a group that brings all ecosystem players together is long overdue,” Yospeh told Shega

Yoseph stated that his immediate task would be to create a platform to foster dialogue between roleplayers and coordinate activities. 

Members of the working group aim to combine their expertise as private sector players to push for changes in the DFS policy and regulatory environment, build the capacity of industry players, and undertake advocacy and research work.

Nurhassen Mensur, co-founder of YenePay Financial Technologies Plc and a member of the group states that the group should be seen as a professional association of digital financial service providers that will stand to represent their common goals.

Together with government stakeholders, the group will also work towards accelerating and deepening digital financial inclusion in Ethiopia, especially for women and youth.

Resistance from the regulator, the National Bank of Ethiopia, reaching common consensus among its diverse players, and lack of legal bases for formation were raised as possible challenges the group could face, while it was stated that the group would apply for an association license soon.

The formation of the group was facilitated by UNCDF and its partners. The UNCDF, an autonomous organization under the UN that aims to unlock public and private capital resources, has launched DFS Working Groups in other African countries too.

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