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New technologies and innovations have enormous potential for change across Africa. It is therefore not surprising that there are now technology centers in Ghana, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. Eastern Africa is no exception and the iHub in Nairobi, which was founded in 2010 as an example of a coworking space for the start-up scene, is now one of the world's most recognized and one of the leading centers for technology and innovation in Africa. Today also known under the nickname "Silicon Savannah", the lack of formal infrastructure in large parts of Eastern Africa can be seen as a catalyst for technological expansion. Almost every country has a start-up scene, coworking spaces and smaller innovation hubs today. In some areas, the digitalization of Eastern Africa has advanced further than in Europe. Mobile banking on a USSD basis should be particularly emphasized, which has dominated the financial sector initially in Kenya and then throughout the region: The introduction of M-Pesa in 2007 has given people access to financial services that were previously excluded. In the meantime, there are not only numerous other providers of mobile money, but product ranges have also multiplied. For example, the market leader Safaricom (M-Pesa) offers savings accounts and small loans via mobile phones and even solar technology can be financed through the subsidiary M-Kopa Solar in order to provide reliable access to electricity to people in rural areas.
Through our digitalization focus, Sparkassenstiftung currently works together with the partner organisations to conduct a digital baseline study before implementing project activities.
For us as Sparkassenstiftung, the financial inclusion of a broad spectrum of the population in Eastern Africa is particularly important and we are aware that digitalization is inevitable in this context. The five countries in which we operate (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) have achieved a different level of development despite regional proximity. Hence, there is not one comprehensive digitization project, but individual digitization topics in different individual projects and countries. Uganda is one of our newer project countries. Recently we have carried out a survey on digital readiness to set up project activities for microfinance institutions that meet the needs of the population and partners. We are also planning a similar analysis in Burundi and in the other project countries, with surveys adapted to the project situation. A recurring challenge in this context are new introduced financial regulations, which require implementation of core banking systems or further digital measures. In Rwanda and Tanzania, we will implement core banking systems for various microfinance institutions (MFIs) and Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOS) with our respective partners in order to build a fundamental structure for further digitization measures. Similar projects about the implementation of core banking systems and shared services are ongoing with our partner in Kenya. Digitalization efforts further concern financial education. The main topics here are e-learning platforms and apps for dissemination of financial knowledge as well as the implementation of digital readiness modules in the dual training system.