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COMESA implements digital payment platform

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has started the process of implementing the COMESA digital retail payment platform to facilitate on-line transactions among cross border traders in the region.

The regional body, through the COMESA Business Council (CBC) will next week convene the 5th Digital Financial Inclusion Public-Private Dialogue in Malawi to validate the draft operational plan for the implementation of the digital payment platform.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lusaka today, CBC Chief Executive Officer, Teddy  Soobramanien said the project will be piloted in eight countries before being rolled-out  to all the 21 member states by June next year.

 Mr Soobramanien said the platform will be first piloted in Zambia and Malawi before being spread to other participating countries.

“This is a game charger for COMESA. This scheme represents a remarkable opportunity to drive economic growth and financial empowerment for all,” he said.

Mr Soobramanien said financial inclusion ecosystems are key to sustainable development and economic progress, especially among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that are engines of innovation, job creation and poverty reduction.

He explained that the business council is committed to ensuring that women and youths that often face barriers in trade are not left behind in the transformative journey.

“By harnessing the power of digital technology, we can unlock the unprecedented opportunities for them, empowering them to realise their full potential and contribute to the region’s prosperity,” he said.

And Mr Soobramanien also announced that the business council will next week hold the Zambia-Malawi Proof of Concept workshop to exemplify the feasibility and benefits of the retail payment platform.

He said stakeholders from the banking sector, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sectors, including mobile service providers are expected to attend the workshop which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Meanwhile, CBC Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Pinifolo says the platform will help to promote financial inclusion in the COMESA region, which currently has digital penetration of 30 percent among SMEs in the region with most traders conducting cash transactions.

Mr Pinifolo said through the retail digital payment platform, the SMEs will be able to access finance from commercial banks using statements from the on-line transactions as collateral adding that 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 the platform will also be used for market intelligence, where traders will be able to access information on commodity prices.