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Dr Reda Helal and group managing director – Processing, Africa and co-head group processing, Network International, and Benjamin Mutimura, CEO, I&M Bank (Rwanda) Plc. (Image source: Network International)

Dr Reda Helal and group managing director – Processing, Africa and co-head group processing, Network International, and Benjamin Mutimura, CEO, I&M Bank (Rwanda) Plc, has highlighted Rwanda’s journey towards financial inclusion through digital payments, mobile wallets, and strategic partnerships, aiming for full inclusion by 2024 

In the heart of Africa, Rwanda’s financial inclusion efforts are gaining traction as the nation’s institutions, businesses, and consumers increasingly adopt digital payment methods. These technological advancements are essential in extending financial services to a broader audience, offering the convenience of cashless transactions, and facilitating swift and secure exchanges.

Rwanda: Pioneering digital finance hub in Africa

Rwanda stands out as a fertile ground for digital finance, with a youthful demographic—69% under the age of 30—and one of the highest population densities on the continent. The country boasts an impressive 87% mobile penetration rate, and the mobile payment sector saw a staggering 450% growth during the pandemic. In 2022 alone, mobile payment channels processed 310 million transactions, with a significant 41% increase in transaction value reported in November, from RWF 4.7 trillion (US$3.6bn) to RWF 6.6 trillion (US$5bn). Rwanda is ambitiously working towards complete financial inclusion by 2024.

The nation’s strategic plans, Vision 2050 and the National Strategy for Transformation 2017–2024, aim to position Rwanda as a central hub for financial services within Africa. The burgeoning fintech industry is key to this vision, promoting the shift towards digital payments and aiding in the quest for financial inclusion.

A recent study by Access to Finance Rwanda revealed a critical challenge: despite the financial sector’s rich data production, only a select few are leveraging this data effectively. This lack of a data-centric approach is a significant obstacle, as it prevents a deeper understanding of customer profiles and needs, optimisation of business operations, and the ability to forecast outcomes.

In Rwanda’s dynamic market, contactless payments and mobile wallets are becoming increasingly important. They offer consumers numerous advantages, including speed, convenience, and enhanced security.

The strategic alliance between Network International and I&M Bank is set to strengthen the bank’s digital-first strategy and its leadership in Rwanda’s market. This partnership will introduce an array of payment products and services, such as card hosting and processing, backed by strong security measures and an advanced API gateway. These offerings will enrich customer experiences with data and analytics, finely-tuned loyalty programs, and tokenisation, among other innovations.

As the global trend shifts towards contactless payments and digital wallets, Rwanda is witnessing the transformative impact of services like tokenisation and data analytics on commerce and payment systems. These innovations are integrating more citizens into the formal financial framework, paving the way for Rwanda to emerge as a significant financial services hub in the region, with banking standards that match international benchmarks.

Embracing cutting-edge technology in digital banking is crucial for realising genuine financial inclusion. The World Bank’s Rwanda Economic Update underscores the potential for financial services to enhance financial inclusion through innovation. While challenges such as the digital divide, infrastructural shortcomings, and financial literacy gaps remain, the report advises policymakers to strengthen regulatory frameworks, upgrade financial and digital infrastructure, and increase government support to nurture a digital-friendly ecosystem.

As Rwanda strides towards its 2024 financial inclusion goal, the dissemination of knowledge will be instrumental in establishing a digital payment culture that is inclusive and robust.

Airtel Africa reports US$89mn loss due to tax bill, despite customer growth and data usage increase. (Image source: Airtel Africa)

Despite an increase in its customer numbers, Airtel Africa faced a US$89mn deficit, attributed to a substantial tax obligation stemming from “exceptional derivative and foreign exchange loss” 

If these extraordinary items were not considered, the company’s profit for the fiscal year ending 31 March, would have reached US$460mn.

The operator saw a 9% surge in its total subscribers, reaching 152.7 million, alongside a 17.8% rise in data users totaling 64.4 million, and a 20.8% hike in data consumption per user.

Investments in capital expenditures remained steady at US$737mn, falling short of projections due to postponed data center investments. The firm allocated US$152mn for renewing licenses and acquiring spectrum, with US$127mn dedicated to renewing its Nigerian 3G license.

Revenues saw a 5.3% decrease, dropping from US$5.2 billion to US$4.9bn, largely impacted by the devaluation of the Nigerian naira.

Olusegun Ogunsanya, CEO of Airtel Africa, stated that efforts to “de-risk our balance sheet and our capital allocation priorities has materially reduced the risks that the currency devaluation has had on our business.” He further mentioned that the company has taken steps to lessen US dollar debt and is concentrating on “reducing our exposure to currency volatility.”

Similarly, MTN reported a decline in profits due to the naira’s devaluation and has unveiled a plan to restore profitability to its local division.

Kaduna State seals telecom masts over $5.8bn tax debt, enforcing compliance amidst revenue targets. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service, KADIRS, has sealed telecommunication masts in the state owned by MTN, Globacom, and Airtel due to their failure to settle tax debts totaling US$5.8bn

In a statement by the head of corporate communications Kaduna IRS, Zakari Muhammad, “Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service, in the exercise of its powers vested in it by Section 104 of the Personal Income Tax Act, has sealed up the following masts due to huge tax liabilities as established by Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KASUPDA).”

“The sealed masts include the MTN mast (IHS) at Tafawa Balewa Way, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna; the GLO mast at Shehu Laminu road, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna and the MTN mast (IHS) at Surami road, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna.” “Others include MTN Mast (IHS) at Etsu Road, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna, MTN, Airtel, Glo, 9-Mobile Masts (ATC) at Nagwamatse Road, Kaduna, MTN (IHS) at Nagwamatse road, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna and an MTN mast (IHS) at Shehu Laminu road, Unguwan Rimi, Kaduna.”

Aisha Ahmad, the Secretary and Legal Adviser of the KADIRS Board, further clarified,“we are left with no option but to exercise the powers vested in us by the law to enforce compliance.”

She emphasised that fulfilling tax obligations is a responsibility of citizens and enforcement is a last resort, as the Kaduna State Government aims to achieve a revenue target of US$120bn.

Demica, Afreximbank, Sterling Bank join forces to revolutionise supply chain finance in Nigeria. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

The supply chain finance solutions from Demica, a leading fintech, has been selected by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and Sterling Bank to provide approved payables finance to Nigerian businesses and suppliers

Afreximbank and Sterling Bank partnered in order to introduce the AFREXIMBANK TRADELINK in Nigeria and chose to leverage Demica’s proven payables finance technology as well as its supplier onboarding tool. This arrangement is described by unique for Nigeria and will utilise the stengths of both banks to provide a comprehensive solution to corporates and suppliers in the West African country. Under the partnership, the US Dollar and Euro financing is provided by Afreximbank while financing in Naira is provided by Sterling Bank. Suppliers to Nigerian corporates can thus benefit from financing in both local and foreign currency as per their requirements.

Abubakar Suleiman, managing director of Sterling Bank, commented, “Sterling Bank is committed to meeting the trade finance needs of Nigerian corporates and their suppliers and we are proud to introduce this much-needed product for the benefit of Nigerian businesses in partnership with Afreximbank.”

Africa payables finance

The payables finance product enables suppliers to access funding by obtaining early payment for invoices approved for payment by their corporate buyers. The buyers continue to receive trade credit from the suppliers, and the suppliers monetise their trade receivables through the early payment received, enabling them to improve their working capital position and grow their business. The financing cost is linked to the credit rating of the corporate buyers, thereby making this product particularly valuable for SME suppliers who may face challenges in accessing bank finance at competitive pricing.

“The launch in Nigeria is a first step in Afreximbank’s plans to introduce payables finance across Africa in partnership with leading African financial institutions,” said Gwen Mwaba, director and global head, trade finance, Afreximbank. “The product, which will deploy world-class technology and a collaborative delivery model, aligns with the bank’s vision of transforming Africa’s trade, and will contribute towards achievement of the bank’s strategic objective of reducing the trade finance gap in Africa, especially for the SME segment.”

AFREXIMBANK TRADELINK, is part of Afreximbank’s digital Africa Trade Gateway which provides African corporates and banks with the digital tools they need to access market information and connect with buyers and sellers.

Maurice Benisty, Demica’s chief commercial officer, added, “We’re thrilled our technology is helping drive forward the expansion of supply chain finance in Nigeria, in partnership with Afreximbank and Sterling Bank. Right across Africa there is huge unmet demand for this type of finance to meet fast-changing requirements for working capital and liquidity, especially in the SME sector. This payables finance solution is going to assist the growth of trade in and from Africa, and further demonstrates the value that these solutions bring to the real economy.”

Elsewhere in Nigeria, a proposed business model holds the potential to unlock 3.3GW of solar capacity. Click here for more information.

South African customers now have access to a diverse range of local and international brands, offering competitive prices and speedy same-day or next-day delivery options. (Image source: Amazon)

Amazon has revealed the launch of Amazon.co.za, introducing a fresh online shopping avenue for consumers in South Africa 

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