Africa Prosperity Network to hold symposium on advancing interoperability in Africa
Africa Prosperity Network to hold symposium on advancing interoperability in Africa
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Africa Prosperity Network to hold symposium on advancing interoperability in Africa

The Africa Prosperity Network (APN), in partnership with the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat based in Ghana, will host an international symposium on advancing interoperability across the African continent. 

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Scheduled for July 5, 2024, at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, the event will focus on "Advancing Continental Interoperability for Africa's Economic Prosperity, Scaling Up Interoperability — Using Mobile Money to Buy & Sell Across Africa."

Addressing the Interoperability Challenge

In today's interconnected world, access to financial services is crucial for economic growth and development. Mobile interoperability is a vital component of Africa's payment infrastructure, with the potential to significantly enhance cross-border payments. However, despite efforts towards regional integration, market fragmentation continues to impede economic activities.

Non-tariff barriers increase transaction costs and limit market access, leaving millions of Africans excluded from the formal financial system. This exclusion hinders their ability to save, invest, and transact efficiently. Addressing these challenges is essential for unlocking Africa's economic potential.

Mobile interoperability, including cross-border mobile roaming and mobile money exchange, is crucial for creating an interconnected economy. The integration of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) could link telecom companies with commercial and central banks, boosting liquidity and currency stability. In 2022, mobile money transactions in Africa reached $1.26 trillion, highlighting the economic impact of digital currencies.

 Call for Stakeholder Support

Speaking at a press conference at the Accra International Press Centre on June 6, 2024, APN Executive Chairman Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko emphasized the need for stakeholder support to achieve interoperability on the continent. He urged central banks, telecommunications regulators, telcos, fintechs, political leaders, and the media to back this initiative.

“Our focus at Africa Prosperity Network has been to advocate for continent-wide interoperability. This effort requires the support of the media, political will, and the buy-in of central banks, regulators, and leadership across Africa,” Otchere-Darko said.

He further remarked, “If we can get interoperability working, especially in areas where millions of small and micro-scale enterprises operate, it will significantly enhance intra-African trade.”

Integrating Payment Systems

Dr. Kenneth Ashigbey, CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Electronic Money Issuers, shared a personal anecdote highlighting the challenges of making cross-border payments in Africa. After a trip to Abuja, Nigeria, he faced difficulties settling an additional hotel charge from Accra, Ghana. This experience underscored the broader payment and settlement issues on the continent.

Ashigbey noted that Ghana's adoption of interoperability has transformed its payment infrastructure, boosting financial inclusion beyond the capabilities of traditional banks. He emphasized that AfCFTA's success depends on integrating Africa’s payment systems, with mobile money playing a crucial role.

Erasing Borders

Mr. Samuel Amannor, CEO of Blue Space, highlighted the potential of interoperability to remove the barriers that separate African countries. “Interoperability can erase the invisible lines that divide us, allowing for seamless trade and communication across the continent,” Amannor said.

Media Partnership

Gayheart Mensah, an APN executive board member, called on the media to support the interoperability agenda, stressing its importance for integrating trade activities in Africa. “Prosperity for Africa can only come from integrated economies and aligned value chains. The media’s role is crucial in promoting this vision,” Mensah said.

The symposium will bring together stakeholders from telecommunications, banking, politics, and other sectors to discuss and advance the implementation of interoperability across Africa.

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