COMESA Building, Right Wing, 2nd floor, Ben Bella Road, Lusaka, Zambia.
+260 211 229725/32 or + 260 761 228 754

Empowering MSMEs for Enhanced Intra-COMEA Trade: CBC’s Digital Financial Inclusion Workshop

A transformative three-day workshop, jointly organized by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council (CBC) and the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) today, 17 October 2023. The Digitalisation Toolkits for Greater Financial Inclusion Workshop was attended by approximately 50 Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and inaugurated by His Excellency Mr. Prithvirajsing Roopun, the President of the Republic of Mauritius. The event also featured key addresses from Mr. Marday Venkatasamy, President of the CBC, and Mrs. Namita Jagarnath Hardowar, President of the MCCI.

The workshop, whose primary goal is to enhance the knowledge of MSMEs regarding digital finance, thereby increasing their adoption of digital financial services and their active participation in intra-COMESA trade, forms an integral part of CBC’s Digital Financial Inclusion (DFI) Program.

This Program is dedicated to establishing a low-cost, interoperable, and fraud-resistant regional digital financial services infrastructure, with a primary focus on serving MSMEs. It is a response to the pressing issue of financial exclusion, affecting approximately 400 million adults in Africa, particularly women, who do not have access to formal financial services.

“The CBC’s Digital Financial Inclusion (DFI) Programme, which we are gathered to discuss and implement, represents our response to this pressing issue. Capacity building stands at the core of our strategy,” said Mr. Marday Venkatasamy, President of the CBC in his remarks.

It follows therefore that the workshop also aims to introduce participants to the benefits of the COMESA Digital Retail Payments Scheme and to prospect for users to onboard onto the platform, upon impending launch.

Mr. Venkatasamy recognised the significance of high-level meetings with Heads of States and Governments, and the presence of His Excellency Mr. Prithvirajsing Roopun, the President of Mauritius, at the event. He extended his gratitude to the MCCI for their support and partnership in bringing the workshop to life.

Mr. Venkatasamy provided an overview of the CBC, highlighting its role as the regional apex body of the private sector and business community in the 21 COMESA member states. He emphasized the organization’s commitment to promoting the inclusiveness of the private sector in regional and global trade. He also acknowledged the challenges faced by the private sector in COMESA, which led to the establishment of the CBC Secretariat in 2010.

His Excellency, Mr. Prithvirajsing Roopun, the President of the Republic of Mauritius, addressed the transformative potential of the Digital Financial Inclusion Program and the Regional Digital Retail Payments Scheme. He expressed his profound joy and support for the regional digital retail payments platform initiative and highlighted the role of the Bank of Mauritius as the settlement entity.

The President highlighted Mauritius’ commitment to collaboration, open dialogue, and consensus building in economic decision-making. He recognized the significance of fostering innovation, promoting financial stability, and empowering people. His address underscored the collective vision to empower MSMEs and drive economic growth, financial inclusion, and prosperity in the region.

“It is in the spirit of collective determination, of innovation, and of a collective vision that we gather today, to make our SMEs, especially women and young entrepreneurs, better equipped to navigate the digital world with confidence. We look forward to a future where our SMEs, especially women and youth entrepreneurs, are equipped to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and resilience”, he further stated.

Mrs. Namita Jagarnath Hardowar, President of the MCCI, emphasized that this event carries the promise of transformation not just for businesses but for the regions and economies they represent. Mrs. Hardowar highlighted the significance of the CBC’s Digital Financial Inclusion program and the forthcoming Regional Digital Retail Payments Scheme, which holds the potential for economic empowerment and technological advancement for the business community.

“This workshop signifies not only a valuable opportunity for our Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) but also serves as a testimony to our collective commitment towards their development. The MCCI stands ready to embrace this opportunity with open arms”, she said.

The transformative potential of digital financial services and cross-border transactions are poised to reshape the financial landscape, enhancing the capabilities and reach of SMEs. This collaborative effort, led by the CBC and supported by the MCCI, signifies a significant step towards inclusive and digitally empowered entrepreneurship, driven by the words of the esteemed speakers and their collective vision for the future.