Some of participants discussing additional content for the DFL programme during the workshop

Empowering Malawi’s Small Businesses: UNCDF Pioneers Digital Financial Literacy for Resilience

“Malawi like many countries in the region have seen digital finance as a key enabler of financial inclusion. Over the years, we have registered considerable progress in promoting the use of digital financial services in the country to be in line with the SDGs,” said Director of Trade in Services at Ministry of Trade, Mufwa Munthali.

“The use of technology in the financial sector has brought a wide range of financial products and services that are accessible via mobile phones, internet banking and other digital channels which, in return, promote access to and usage of financial services,” added Munthali.

On October 19, 2023, representatives from public sector, private sector, government, and development partners joined the UNCDF Malawi Digital Financial Services for Resilience (DFS4Res) team at the Crossroads Conference Centre in Lilongwe for a workshop to validate findings from a recent landscaping exercise on the needs and gaps in digital financial literacy for small businesses.

The objective of the meeting was to review a rapid qualitative assessment conducted by UNCDF in partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (SMEDI) in Malawi’s Central Region. The team conducted focus group discussions and key informant interviews with small businesses in urban, peri-urban and rural commerce centres, as well as with stakeholders involved in small business development.

Iris Kissiti, the UNCDF Malawi Country Lead, emphasized the importance of fostering Malawi’s digital economy, recognizing that simply focusing on product development and access without empowering consumers is insufficient.

“UNCDF is exploring ways to aid Malawi in cultivating an inclusive digital economy, with a keen awareness that the facilitation of consumer protection and empowerment must be at the center of all our initiatives,” she said.

UNCDF presented initial findings and emerging insights during the morning workshop, which included existing barriers to the uptake and usage of digital financial services by small businesses. These findings centered on:

  1. General uptake and usage of digital financial services
  2. Digital tools for business
  3. Consumer protection in a digital age

These three key areas of focus will each include lessons meant to build the competencies and capabilities of small businesses to make decisions about products and services to use, to understand how to use simple digital tools to improve their businesses and reach new markets, and to be informed, responsible DFS consumers.

“When it comes to using digital tools for business, this can affect people both in the rural areas and in stores in town. In rural areas, there are centres where people can access the internet. If you have a cell phone, you should be able to learn about and access some tools to help you improve your business – even if you’re using USSD.” ~ Workshop Participant

In the coming weeks, UNCDF will launch a condensed report for public dissemination of findings, as well as work with MoTI, SMEDI, Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to refine the project work plan and begin curriculum development. The anticipated launch of this initiative is set for the beginning of 2024, intending to serve as a valuable public good that can provide advantages not only to UNCDF’s specific target audience but also to businesses across Malawi. This will be achieved through the dissemination of the developed content and materials for wider accessibility and benefit.

For more information, contact:
Limbani Ngwata
Communications Analyst, UNCDF

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