The Central Bank, Bank of Sierra Leone, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) launches the country’s first mobile money regulations to accelerate the delivery of financial services to the poor, including women and youth.
The Bank Governor, Momodu Kargbo, noted that the launch of the Mobile Financial Service Guidelines is in line with the Central Bank’s objective to expand financial services to the poor, especially in rural areas, but to also ensure overall financial inclusion.
“This is not only for the convenience but as an avenue to ensure that as many Sierra Leoneans as possible are included in the formal financial system of our country,” the Governor declared at a conference attended by representatives from a wide range of financial services providers, commercial banks, mobile phone companies and other regulatory bodies.
Mr. Momodu Kargbo pointed out that mobile financial services proved instrumental during the Ebola crisis when thousands of response workers had to be paid. The traditional banking services had proven inadequate to ensure that response workers were paid on time, leading to several strike actions by nurses and burial teams among others.
“This is the first step towards encouraging people to adopt electronic channels of payments and move away from the traditional use of cash as means of payments and settlements of financial obligations,” Mr. Kargbo said
UNDP Country Director a.i. Carine Yengayenge said that through the issuance of these regulations, Bank of Sierra Leone is taking pro-active measures to unleash the catalytic role that digital financial services can play in achieving greater financial inclusion, that will in turn create inclusive economic growth for those living at the bottom of the pyramid.
Ms. Yengayenge added further that the guidelines when successfully implemented, will provide an enabling environment for mobile operators to work within the purview of the financial sector and collaborate with financial institutions to deliver a wide range of financial services for the poor and those in rural areas, especially the vulnerable, women and youth.
UNDP Technical Adviser and Programme Manager for Cash Transfer and Financial Inclusion, Tenzin Keyzom Ngodup, said earlier that Sierra Leone is a cash-based economy, and the payment system is still rudimentary with limited use of debit and credit cards, cheques and internet banking. Ms Keyzom Ngodup noted that there is, however, vast potential to encourage the unbanked, and shift those who bank to use mobile financial services since Sierra Leone has 82% mobile network coverage.
Following the successful digitization of hazard payments to over 24,000 Ebola Response Workers under the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response by UNDP and UNCDF, the Government of Sierra Leone committed to advance its transition from cash to digital payments by joining the UN partnership, the ‘Better Than Cash Alliance’.
As a member of the Alliance along with many other countries, the Government of Sierra Leone committed to improving the efficiency of payments for social welfare programs and to government employees, and setting the foundation for additional advances in its economy. By bringing mobile money formally under the purview of the Central Bank, the Government of Sierra Leone, is taking steps to further the enabling environment, while at the same time, adequately protecting consumers using mobile money.
UNDP was tasked by the UN Secretary-General to lead the UN’s crisis recovery work in the three hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. UNDP helped the government develop the country’s National Ebola Recovery Strategy.
UNDP’s own recovery action plan, titled ‘Restoring Livelihoods and Fostering Economic Recovery’ spans 18 months, and supports the country’s recovery efforts with a focus in helping rebuild the livelihoods of those most affected, strengthen the government’s capacity to restore essential services and ensuring a rapid return to a sustainable development path, while preserving and promoting peace, stability and social cohesion.
UNDP Communications Unit, 55 Wilkinson Road, Freetown.
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