Actualisation of the ability to put on the market low-cost software products or systems to connect and exchange information with one another without restriction, which is also known as interoperability, remains the single largest challenge to financial inclusion in Uganda, according to financial technology experts.
This, experts say, together with real-time payment solutions, remains one of Uganda’s silver bullets that will deliver the digital economy enhanced through financial inclusion.
Speaking at the 2021 Fintech Landscape Exhibition in Kampala, industry experts drawn from financial technology companies such as banks, telecoms, Saccos and developers’ communities conceded that although a number of positives have been registered, Uganda will attain financial inclusion only if issues around the cost of interoperable services and real-time payment solutions are conclusively addressed.
Financial interoperability allows customers of different service providers to transact across networks, ranging from mobile money to banking.
Telecoms have already implemented interoperability but the cost involved continues to deter customers from using cross network services.
For instance, it costs a customer about Shs1,880 to send Shs20,000 to a different network yet the same will cost about Shs500 on on-network transfers.
Speaking at the same event, Mr Stephen Mutana, the MTN Mobile Money chief executive officer, acknowledged the challenge, noting that engagements are underway between key partners to find areas in which the industry can work together.
“If you are going to drive the digital economy, then the operations of being digitally included should be low,” he said, noting that lowering interoperability costs will ensure creation of a seamless mobile money system that is simple and cost effective.
Mr Ronald Azairwe, the Pegasus Technologies managing director, said there is need to hasten creation of both interoperability and real-time payment solutions, noting that industry players are making sure that customers use services with no barriers as envisaged under the National Payment Systems Act.
The National Payment Systems Act, which was recently enacted, seeks to regulate as well as ease payment solutions and systems in Uganda.
Mr John Mark Ssebunnya, a Fintech Platform architect, noted that one way of lowering the cost of financial interoperability is through collaborations that build rails and rules that will allow “sharing of different digital financial services to bring forward lean and single integrations”.