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Interoperable digital public infrastructure can speed up Africa’s economic integration, prosperity

Prembly CEO pitches integration, Flutterwave launches forex platform
Interoperable digital public infrastructure can speed up Africa’s economic integration, prosperity

Intra-African commerce is being held back by a lack of interoperability in digital identity systems and know your customer checks.

This is the assessment of Lanre Ogungbe, co-founder and chief executive officer of biometric identity verification company Prembly, in an opinion piece published by Harvard Business Review.

Building interoperable digital public infrastructure, expanding useful partnerships with the private sector and investing in energy and internet infrastructure can be a veritable recipe for Africa’s digital and economic integration and shared prosperity, he argues.

According to Ogungbe, digital integration which he refers to as “creating shared systems and standard rules for digitalization across Africa,” will not only trigger economic growth in Africa, but will also lead to regional integration and even stronger global influence.

He notes that digital integration in practice would include the harmonization of “digital financial systems, consistent continent-wide laws for digital activities, and shared regulatory technology like identity verification, digital taxation, and business registration systems.”

As the Prembly CEO notes, a digitally integrated Africa will improve trade efficiency and market access, benefiting small businesses in particular.

Another point highlighted by Ogungbe is the important role which private sector companies that have established strong presence across national borders can play in driving the digital integration agenda.

“Fostering digital integration requires collaborations between these private players, governments, and regional bodies,” he writes, citing the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) as a good example of how such partnership can work. PAPSS is a payments system launched early last year and powered by some of the biggest commercial banks on the continent.

In the case of digital Identity, Ogungbe argues that “interoperable ID systems across the continent would allow for continent-wide know-your-customer systems, enabling access to financial services anywhere in Africa and thus making intra-African commerce easier.”

He concludes that the inherent difficulties notwithstanding, governments that recognize the important of digital integration can work towards it.

Flutterwave introduces foreign exchange platform with selfie biometrics

Getting access to foreign currency is another challenge to Africa’s economic integration.

Nigerian fintech giant Flutterwave has launched a digital solution Swap in a bid to clear some of the challenges facing access to foreign exchange and liquidity in Nigeria.

The platform, launched recently with the endorsement of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), will be operated in collaboration with a bureau de change (BDC) and a commercial bank. It will allow access to the U.S. dollar, Euro and the British pound for now, reports Tech Cabal.

The Swap product requires identity verification via the user’s biometric bank verification number, a selfie for face biometrics matching, and other documentation.

“We understand the FX access challenges individuals and businesses face. Swap is our answer to those pain points, providing a seamless and efficient platform for currency exchange,” said Flutterwave CEO and founder Olugbenga Agboola.

The publication also quotes the acting governor of CBN Folashodun Shonubi as saying that the digital solution would address two major problems, one of which is the overdependence on cash.

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