ARUA – The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) announced partnerships with digital services providers aimed at increasing access to and usage of digital services in the North and West Nile regions of Uganda. Through this partnership, UNCDF is supporting private sector players to develop and scale digital solutions for communities that are often marginalized and denied digital innovation and technology due to social norms, societal status, and limited revenue and capacity.
The partnership is part of the ‘Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era,’ strategy, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), which aims to build an inclusive digital economy in Uganda. The programme focusses on empowering rural communities to use digital services in their daily lives for development impact in agriculture, health, education, and finance.
“In line with our strategy of ‘Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era’, the partnerships aim at breaking the obstacles that limit the reach of digital services in rural communities,” said Jenifer Bukokhe Wakhugu, Deputy Head of Office at UNCDF Uganda. “Our goal is to enable at least one million people in rural communities of Uganda to use digital services that will empower them to lead productive and healthy lives while at the same time contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
While the overall number of people accessing digital products and services in Uganda continues to grow, the digital access gap is widening, negatively impacting routinely excluded populations: rural communities, smallholder farmers, women, youth, MSMEs & refugees. Over the last four years, the Ugandan digital financial market has grown from 26% of the adult population actively using digital financial services in 2014 to roughly 56% in 2019. However, in rural communities, such as the Northern and West Nile Regions of Uganda, access to mobile digital financial services lags behind at dismal levels, at less than 30%.
To bridge this gap, UNCDF is partnering with mobile network operators (MNOs), Airtel Uganda and MTN Uganda, to increase mobile phone penetration, strengthen the rural agent network, improve liquidity, optimize connectivity across the target areas, and develop relevant and affordable products for rural communities.
UNCDF is also partnering with agri-techs, Ensibuuko Tech Limited and MobiPay Agrosys Limited, to create a network of digital community entrepreneurs (lead farmers) aimed at increasing last-mile distribution of digital inclusion related services and products such as phones, off-grid energy solutions, bank accounts, farming inputs, and electronic airtime. Additionally, we are leveraging these partnerships to teach financial & digital literacy skills, with the aim of building and fostering an open payment ecosystem that empowers these communities.
“Through these partnerships, we aim at building the digital infrastructure in the rural communities to pave the way for digital technologies that will remove the major market constraints in agriculture, education, and health, while at the same time creating impact in entire market systems.” Ms. Bukokhe added.