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Africa's unbanked to dominate discussion at FIGI 2019

Africa's unbanked to dominate discussion at FIGI 2019

Egypt will host the second symposium of the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) from 22 January 2019.

The role of tech innovation, specifically ICT and mobile technologies, to expand financial inclusion is expected to top the agenda.

According to the ITU 1.7 billion adults still do not have access to a bank account, while 1.1 billion of them have a mobile phone.

FIGI 2019 will delve into the impact of electronic payments (based on separate studies) in three key markets, China, Egypt and Mexico, as part of the Initiative's three-year programme of collective action to advance research into digital finance.

The symposium will also focus on data confidentiality, reliable identity verification, security from hackers and fraudsters, as well as ease of use to attract merchants and customers.

A 'hackathon' would be held in the run-up to the FIGI 2019 symposium as part of efforts to encourage the emergence of a marketplace for open APIs enabling small merchants to adopt e-payment services at low cost.

Industry experts have highlighted the potential of digital financial services to promote financial inclusivity, and there have been numerous initiatives launched focused on the use of ICT to empower the unbanked.

One such initiative is Humaniq, a blockchain-based financial start-up that has simulated the live use of an app to better understand how to assist the most marginalised in Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

It sought to find the best native ways of organising financial interaction locally among segments of the population that are not served by the Western banking financial infrastructure.

Anton Mozgovoy, VP Technology at Humaniq, said, "Fintech is really an umbrella term, so it's difficult to talk about specific benefits. In general though, new technologies in the financial sector are what is driving financial inclusion, by making those who need it easier to reach. They are in fact the core of the innovation, and without it there would be no progress in this field. However as of now there is still much left to be done, and a lot of risks in the regulatory and operational spaces make it difficult to spread out to all the unbanked."

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