A New Partnership Model to Scale Digital Financial Services in Uganda

Ronald Rwakigumba | Rachael Kentenyingi

Building on the ongoing collaboration with UNCDF in implementing the “Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era” strategy, Airtel Uganda Limited is building a new model of partnership with two financial technology firms to empower rural customers to access and use digital services.

Airtel Uganda Limited is a subsidiary of Airtel Africa PLC, a provider offering mobile funds transfer and banking services in Uganda. For this new partnership model, Airtel and UNCDF are working with Ensibuuko Uganda Limited and MobiPay AgroSys Limited.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by the three parties on 3rd March 2021 and witnessed by UNCDF, builds on the strides made by Airtel to develop digital products, and deepen coverage toward increasing access to mobile and financial services in rural areas of Uganda.

Penetration of Digital Financial Services into rural Uganda is often challenged by limited digital and financial infrastructure coverage, inadequate access to phones and the lack of relevant product offerings for women, youth, refugees and other vulnerable segments. The partnership builds on the ongoing collaboration between UNCDF and Airtel Uganda to bridge the digital finance divide in often hard-to-reach areas with a focus on Northern Uganda.

The aim is to realize growth in mobile money users and ecosystem support via mobile money agent networks and merchant payment points. Building on the network infrastructure for GSM, providing value-creating mobile financial services is both a revenue generator through mobile money transactions but also a customer retention tool with increased active usage.

Ensibuuko and MobiPay AgroSys have also been partnering with UNCDF to empower Ugandans to use digital services that leverage innovation and technology, thus contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ensibuuko seeks to address the challenges around financial inclusion in Africa through helping the last mile banking institutions go paperless. Ensibuuko’s proprietary microfinance solutions help microfinance organizations to automate their data, processes, and payments, boosting their efficiency in delivering financial services in their communities.

MobiPay works to improve people’s lives through agriculture, commerce, and trade. It offers a cloud-based technology designed to create visibility for farmers and linkages between small-scale farmers and other value chain players. The MOU is timely in leveraging the last-mile delivery network of Digital Community Entrepreneurs (DCEs) in addition to the digitization of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs).

Through this partnership, Airtel can access this network of entrepreneurs in a mutually beneficial way whereby the DCEs realize new income opportunities from selling and promoting Airtel products while filling an access need for rural customers. The Agri-tech solutions being rolled out to digitize farmer group activities is yet another opportunity to embed Airtel’s mobile and financial services for a more holistic suite of services that smallholder farmers will be able to harness.

Through this cooperation framework, more service points are available in remote rural areas, hence increasing teledensity, quality of service and growth in consumption of mobile financial services.

Ultimately, this partnership aims to onboard 300 new Airtel money agents, 400 Airtel Pay merchants, 500,000 active Airtel money customers, and 1 million newly registered Airtel money customers in Northern Uganda.

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