How the new DFS Working Group can support digital transformation in Malawi 

  • November 06, 2022


William Kaunda
Chairperson of the DFS Working Group 


Digital transformation is bound to happen in Malawi, like in the rest of the region. The Malawi Digital Economy Strategy clearly states that digital technologies have the possibility to radically transform the economy and if correctly leveraged, will forge new pathways to inclusive growth. However, there are challenges in coordination between and within government departments, private sector and development partners. Lack of coordination and the shortage of technical skills in the country may lead to imperfect distribution in digitization investments and increase the likelihood of failed projects, and further foster inequality.

 At present, collaboration between the public and private sector to build this digital economy is inadequate as the players operate with independent interests and incentives, which in the private sector has led to infrastructure duplication and urban prioritization, while in the public sector exhibits an absence of harmonized policies and a siloed approach to implementing digitalization activities. 

 However, a coordinated approach that includes as many market players and stakeholders as possible ensures that our digital transformation works in tandem with Malawi’s national development. Such a method will also guarantee that digital services and products reach all in our society, meet their needs and ensure they can fully participate in the country’s digital transformation.  

Financial services providers are critical to Malawi’s digital transformation as they harness financial technology to roll out and deliver digital products and services around payments, remittances and others. Because banks, mobile network operators and other financial service providers have, for a long time, provided digital financial services that allow payments for services through mobile money or digital wallets, they are a strategic stakeholder in digital transformation and have a large role to play in coordinating how the sector can contribute towards digital transformation. 

 In 2018, stakeholders, including financial service providers, formed the Digital Financial Services Coordinating Group (DFSCG), but did not establish the DFS Working Group due to several reasons including insufficient resources. This year, with the support of the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) through the DFS4Resilience programme, digital finance practitioners recently re-established the DFS Working Group, whose primary goal will be to coordinate stakeholder activities and foster dialogue among the various players promoting the development of the DFS ecosystem with an aim of improving the access and usage of digital financial services in Malawi. 

 The DFS Working Group comprises 25 members at present. Their representation consists of government, regulators, insurance and microfinance companies, and the ICT Association. The DFS Working Group’s other objectives are to:  

  • provide a platform to advocate for a conducive regulatory and policy environment through discussions and provision of technical information on topical issues amongst stakeholders
  • provide an appropriate forum for industry level dialogue where industry stakeholders (government, businesses, and development partners) engage regularly
  • promote collaboration and partnerships among the different stakeholders for delivering financial services in a transparent, fair, and safe manner
  • support the development of innovative models and solutions for widening the reach of formal financial services by serving as a platform for generating and sharing knowledge.  

These objectives have been incorporated into a work-plan with activities to support each objective and a timeframe for which these activities should be completed. As professionals, we aim to hold each Working Group member accountable to the responsibility to which they have committed.   

With all these objectives in mind, at its second quarterly meeting, the DFS Working Group resolved to form and register a DFS Association comprising industry stakeholders who will work towards these above objectives and other relevant and strategic goals for the sector. The Association will ensure sustainable coordination among members and thus, continuity of the activities of the Working Group. 

 As Chairperson of the DFS Working Group, I am very hopeful of what this forward-looking group of industry professionals will achieve. We are all enthusiastic about our responsibility and believe that we can make a dynamic contribution to Malawi’s digital transformation, through financial services. 

As digital finance practitioners, we will fully participate in the country’s digital transformation and support a coordinated, inclusive approach that will bring maximum benefit to all the people of Malawi. 

William Kaunda
Head, Digital Financial Services Division, National Bank