The role of cross border digital payments in Economic integration in Africa

1.Background

A number of barriers persist at local, regional and international levels that affect formal and informal trade, the level of economic growth and regional integration attainable. For instance small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa account for approximately 80 percent of the continent’s businesses but trading across borders is notably expensive and lengthy due to nontariff and regulatory barriers. The informal cross-border trade in Africa, which represents 43 percent of the official GDP, lacks effective payment, regulatory and institutional frameworks to support cross border digital trade and fragmented regulatory frameworks continue to limit the potential to unlock the benefits of intra-African trade. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to accelerate intra-African trade, boost economic growth and strengthen economic integration among African countries. To enable the implementation of the AfCFTA, an evaluation of opportunities and bottlenecks for cross border digital payments in the region is fundamental. This evaluation will entail among others an assessment on how digital technologies can be a catalyst to transform traditional offline payments to cross border digital payments and enable micro, small and medium sized enterprises to engage beyond the informal sector and domestic markets and participate in the formal sector and international markets. It will support member states to strengthen economic integration at regional level and develop collaborative mechanisms to boost intra- African trade within the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Cross border digital payments will also serve as an essential step for economic recovery and inclusivity given the impact of covid-19 on businesses and economies.

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2. Purpose

This assessment will provide a roadmap to facilitate the implementation of the AfCFTA among the member states and related sectors in collaboration with possible development partners. It aims to strengthen economic integration across the region and leverage digital technologies to enhance cross-border digital payments.

The Task:

Conduct a comprehensive review of existing platforms and practises that enable cross border or international digital payments in Africa and highlight the barriers or challenges faced and methods to overcome these challenges.
Provide a comprehensive review of existing policies and regulations to define frameworks and areas of collaboration and coordination that can facilitate cross border digital payments within the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Conduct a comprehensive review of digital enablers and non-digital enablers that include but are not limited to digital skills, security and trust, digital infrastructure, cultural barriers for user adoption, logistics, transportation services, etc for inclusive and robust cross border transactions for both the private and public sector.
Provide a comprehensive analysis of institutional collaboration mechanisms that can enable micro, small and medium enterprises, women and youth owned firms among others to transform from traditional offline payments to cross border digital payments.
Propose guidelines and recommendations that can leverage digital technologies and establish best practises to support the implementation of effective cross-border digital payments for enhanced intra-African trade.

Countries of focus: South Africa; Kenya and Ethiopia

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