URSULA: Mobile Money Interoperability Core Point In Intra-African Trade

Ghana’s Minister of Communications and Digitalisation has established the crucial and critical role leaders of African Union (AU) member states will play in connection with Mobile Money Interoperability to boost and sustain intra-African trade to a better height.

“As we discuss the strides made and the road ahead, I want to emphasise the critical role of the African Union (AU) member states. It is imperative that we make mobile money interoperability a core mandate in our efforts to boost intra-African trade. The success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) hinges on our ability to facilitate smooth and secure financial transactions across borders. I urge my fellow ministers and policymakers across the continent to prioritise this agenda, ensuring that we lay down the infrastructure and regulatory frameworks necessary for interoperability” she stated at the Mobile Money Interoperability Symposium organized by the Africa Prosperity Network (APN) in Accra.

She added, “Affordability of mobile connectivity, measured by the price of one gigabyte (GB) of mobile data, is another major constraint. In 2019, the average cost of one GB of mobile internet as a percentage of monthly per-capita Gross National Income (GNI) was 10.5 percent, which is considerably higher than the 2 percent target recommended by the United Nations Broadband Commission. In addition, in 2021, the median cost of an entry-level internet-enabled handset amounted to more than 25.2 percent of monthly gross domestic product per capita.”

She further stated that, digital literacy is necessary in the drive towards advancing a mobile interoperability in Africa adding that, the success of interoperability hinged on a clear understanding of the digital concepts and how they worked, coupled with the availability of digital infrastructure.

“Digital literacy is also necessary in the drive towards advancing mobile interoperability because there must be a clear understanding of the concept and how it works, coupled with the availability of feasible digital infrastructure” she explained.

She continued, “In harmonising interoperable systems, data sovereignty is important. How data is being stored, who has access to it, who has control over it and how it is used should be of keen concern to the various forerunners of the continent-wide mobile interoperability drive. Data protection laws are therefore important, and every nation needs to have them. These laws, however, need to be flexible enough to also create room for pools of data to be utilised regionally.

“For mobile interoperability to thrive across Africa, there must be concerted efforts by the key stakeholders both in government and private sectors. I am particularly excited about the strong stakeholder collaboration we are witnessing today. The presence of diverse stakeholders—ranging from regulators, fintech companies, commercial banks, and SME associations—underscores the importance of a collective approach in advancing this cause. Our journey towards full interoperability will require the expertise, insights, and concerted efforts of all these stakeholders. Together, we can create a robust, interconnected financial ecosystem that benefits every African.”

On the subject of payment systems, industry players discussed the essential components and strategies for creating an integrated payment system to boost intra-African trade.

The focus was on leveraging digital trade, regulatory support, and innovative technologies.

Panelists at the symposium also underscored the need for regulatory harmonisation and cooperation between countries to facilitate seamless transactions, emphasising the importance of building a unified regulatory framework that supports innovation while ensuring security and compliance.

Representatives from leading telecommunications firms discussed their preparedness, the technological developments required to support interoperability, and the challenges and opportunities in deploying cross-border mobile money solutions.

Concerning what has to be done in the short, medium, and long term to achieve interoperability across Africa, the experts and industry leaders urged sustained advocacy among key policy partners.

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