By Afia Nyarko Asare
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with Vodafone Ghana Foundation has launched a digital financial inclusion project in the Upper East Region to boost poor rural women access to formal financial services and to increase economic production.
The two-year project dubbed, “bringing informal to formal through technology”, seeks to employ technology as a transformational tool to support and accelerate digital financial inclusion and engagement for informal businesses particularly women in agro-processing industry in to enhance business performance and increase income generation.
The initiative, which targets about 1,500 poor rural women in four Municipalities and Districts, including; Bolgatanga and Kassena-Nankana Municipals, Bawku West and Bongo Districts, would deploy Vodafone Cash as key financial inclusion platform and would focus on value chain development through capacity building and skills training.
At the launch of the project in Bolgatanga, Madam Radhika Lal, the Economic Advisor, UNDP, said digital technology was transforming the economies of countries globally at a fast pace and so leveraging on technology would harness the benefits that would help end extreme poverty, curb inequalities and accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Bringing informal to formal through technology project is informed by studies that point to opportunities for the deployment of new information and communication technologies to contribute to facilitating formalization and enhancing the extent of financial inclusion and engagement in productive value chains.
It seeks to build on the momentum and test innovative solutions for financial inclusion amongst the less-well served informal sector,” she added.
She said Ghana had the largest number of people in Africa who saved money in their mobile money wallet and there was the need to employ measures to enable such people to benefit from the new technology.
She encouraged the beneficiaries to endeavor to learn and use the knowledge and skills to be acquired to improve their businesses and livelihoods.
Madam Patricia Obo-Nai, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Vodafone Ghana, and said over 2.5 billion people globally had no access to resources, training and formal financial services at reasonable cost causing them to abandon their projects.
“The situation gets dimmer and dimmer in Ghana, especially when you realize that just a little close to 30 per cent of the population is financially included. It is a sad commentary on a sector that contributes more than 60 percent of jobs in Ghana’s economy,” she stressed.
The CEO explained that financial inclusion was not only about empowering the informal sector especially women, by giving them basic skills and training in financial independence, restructuring and digital inclusion, but it was a significant tool to alleviating poverty and income inequalities.
Madam Obo-Nai underscored the rationale behind the introduction of mobile money platforms by telecommunication companies to play leading roles through their innovativeness and strength to promote inclusion in the mainstream financial services to create jobs and improve livelihoods.
She said, “for us at Vodafone, this partnership helps to address one of the key targets for development under the Vodafone Ghana Foundation, thus rural poor women, as well as contribute to the attainment of the SDGs particularly goals one, eight and 10, which put emphasis on ending hunger, ensuring decent work and economic growth and reducing inequality by 2030 respectively.”
Madam Tangoba Abayage, the Upper East Regional Minister, commended UNDP and Vodafone Ghana Foundation for the kind gesture and described the initiative as “one of the best performance management tools”, aimed at equipping the poor rural women in the region to effectively and efficiently improve their businesses and increase their economic levels.