"Digital Finance Ethiopia Showcase 2022": An innovative display of Ethiopia's digital potential and ambition towards the growth of its digital economy.  

  • November 03, 2022


Yaa Asamoah Boateng
KM and Comms Specialist


The inaugural 'Digital Finance Ethiopia Showcase' event took place on 19 and 20 October in Addis Ababa. During the two-day event, players in the digital financial services ecosystem showcased how they innovate traditional financial services by introducing digital solutions and new technologies. The products and services also showed the digital potential and ambition towards the growth of Ethiopia's digital economy. 

The event, organized by the recently convened Digital Financial Services Working Group and supported by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and its partners, the European Union (EU) and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), brought together fintechs, banks, microfinance institutions, payment instrument issuers, mobile money providers and other key stakeholders to collaborate, network and engage further on how digitization can drive financial inclusion, reduce poverty through job creation and promote the participation of women and other marginalized segments in Ethiopia's economic growth. 

 Xavier Michon, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNCDF, speaking at the opening ceremony of the showcase, reiterated UNCDF's belief that Ethiopia, like the rest of Africa, has a fintech industry that is poised for growth. Citing the recent launch of Safaricom and introduction of the popular mobile money service, M-Pesa, the hosting of the first PanAfricon Artificial Intelligence conference and now the 'Digital Finance Ethiopia Showcase', he said, "We are also convinced that it is necessary to pursue an ecosystem approach to support an enabling environment for such collaborations to occur. This approach consists of connecting all the key stakeholders that play a critical and sometimes adjacent role to the fintech industry — the legal industry, regulators, economists, finance and investment professionals, academics and government, among others. The idea is to create a broader enabling environment to exchange ideas and information in a way that will have greater traction and lead to more fruitful connections."

 Xavier Michon, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNCDF

Ethiopia's 'Digital Ethiopia 2025 Strategy' is a bold and ambitious approach that details the path to ensuring the full participation of every Ethiopian citizen in the digital economy. It also indicates how collaboration by key stakeholders is crucial to achieving Ethiopia's digital transformation goals. 

Martha Hailemariam, Senior Advisor to the Vice Governor, Financial Supervision of the National Bank of Ethiopia, affirmed the Government's support for interventions like the showcase and indicated that although progress has been made, a lot more needs to be done. "The financial sector needs to be more innovative to address the pain points of Ethiopian citizens and needs to innovate with a sense of urgency to catch up with the fast-paced global development of digital products and services. By accelerating our efforts, we can leverage digital technologies to foster the growth of the digital economy and the full participation of every citizen.”

Martha Hailemariam, Senior Advisor to the Vice Governor, Financial Supervision of the National Bank of Ethiopia

 The showcase converged over 30 exhibitors from the banking and microfinance sectors, fintech space, payment instrument issuers, and mobile money operators, among others, who displayed their disruptive innovations while extending their brand reach to a broad audience. 

Chapa Financial Technologies, an online payment gateway that empowers small businesses and large merchants to accept local or international payments from their customers, was an exhibitor at the showcase.

“Chapa is delighted to participate in this event, which aims to promote collaboration, policy advocacy, and capacity building between the various stakeholders in the DFS sector.”

Nael Hailemariam, the CEO, spoke on why Chapa took advantage of the opportunity provided by the showcase to market their innovations

Addis International Bank presented its biometrics-enabled account opening product at the showcase, Asnake Worku, a marketing officer, explains further in the Video below. (Watch video. here)

Although meant primarily for players in Ethiopia's DFS ecosystem, the showcase attracted a fintech company based in Uganda. The company, Finowave, a digital wallet and blockchain solutions provider, was represented by its Business Development Lead, Gabriel Ewalu. He spoke on the company's plans to enter the Ethiopian market and why the showcase was a starting point. (Watch video here)

On day two of the showcase, a panel session was held with panelists from the public and private sectors. They shared their knowledge, insights and experiences from other countries on ensuring full participation in Ethiopia's digital economy through innovative, accessible and inclusive digital financial services. Some key takeaways from the discussion include;

  • The need for government to maintain a strong enabling policy and regulatory environment for technological innovation to thrive to create more opportunities for Ethiopia's digital finance players. 
  • DFS players need to continue evolving to remain competitive by ensuring that they deliver products and services that are relevant to the needs of the people in Ethiopia. 
  • To fully harness the benefits of digitalization, Ethiopia needs to invest in infrastructure and upgrade its citizens' digital skills. 
  • To collaborate and enter into strategic partnerships to benefit from the opportunities and efficiencies that DFS can deliver. 

Under the DFS4 Resilience Programme, the European Union supports UNCDF's ambition to collaborate with the Ethiopian government to boost the acceleration of its digital economy. Molina, Del Pozo Pablo, Digital Transformation and Youth Focal Point, EU delegation to Ethiopia, spoke on why the showcase was an important convening for the DFS ecosystem in Ethiopia and what else needs to be done for the ecosystem to thrive. (Watch Video here).

Yoseph Kibret, Chairman of the Digital Financial Services Working Group, reiterated that the mandate for the working group is to create a framework for dialogue and exchange among stakeholders as they work to remove the barriers to digital financial inclusion in Ethiopia. He added that the showcase provides a learning opportunity and a means to deliberate and agree on the path to achieving Ethiopia's digital transformation goal. (Watch Video here)

"The United Nations believes in technological innovation as a driver of economic growth and for the acceleration of the SDGs. This belief is underpinned by the UN's Roadmap on Digital Cooperation in 2020 and the UN Secretary-General's proposed Global Digital Compact, which puts forward an ambitious vision for an open, free, and secure digital future for all. We have already seen how digital finance has helped expand financial inclusion across several African countries." said Turhan Saleh, UNDP's Resident Representative who stood in for the Resident Coordinator at the event. "Therefore, we continue to work with strategic public and private stakeholders in identifying opportunities, addressing gaps and overcoming challenges that threaten the digital transformation priorities of this nation. Our various agencies, like UNCDF, will continue collaborating with the Ethiopian government on this journey.

The two-day showcase, which converged companies driving impactful innovations and the best brains in the industry, is one of the ways that UNCDF is supporting the Digital Financial Services Working Group to contribute to the Government's effort toward accelerating the growth of Ethiopia's digital economy. The goal is to ensure that no one in Ethiopia is left behind in the digital era.