Yaa Asamoah Boateng
Communication and Knowledge Management Analyst
Digital and Financial Literacy in Ethiopia
The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MInT)-Ethiopia convened key public, private and development stakeholders on March 23rd, 2023, to deliberate on an upcoming nationwide digital and financial literacy survey in Ethiopia. The survey is a crucial activity under the four-year Digital Financial Services for Resilience project funded by the European Union (EU) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and which is aimed at deploying digital financial solutions to deepen financial inclusion and help economics recover from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The nationwide survey aims to measure Ethiopians' financial and digital literacy levels and how it is utilized in financial matters. The assessment will also help create a score for digital literacy, financial literacy, and digital financial services to identify gaps and develop relevant and innovative digital services, products, and programmes that are tailored and well-suited to the needs of citizens. It will also contribute to the attainment of the government's plan for digital transformation under the digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy. The survey will be conducted this year in collaboration with different government, private, and development stakeholders that are contributing to the development of digital capacity in the country.
Ethiopia's goal is to ensure that 70% of its citizens are digitally literate and financially included by 2025, and it recognizes digital and financial literacy as crucial to achieving this. MInT, the government's lead agency championing the digital agenda, highlights critical interventions like cultivating the EdTech sector, prioritizing basic literacy and digital skills at the primary and secondary levels and collaborating with strategic partners on various interventions of addressing the literacy gaps.
Speaking at the opening session of the stakeholders' forum, MInT’s State Minister, Huria Ali said, "This survey's findings will help increase awareness and understanding of digital financial services among consumers in ensuring that their digital rights, for instance, are protected in the fast-evolving digital environment. As a country, we will have access to specific objective data that answers our country's peculiarities and enable us to design the right interventions and policies." She added, "Addressing women's peculiar digital needs can be effectively facilitated by collecting sex-disaggregated data. Thus, by upskilling citizens with the proper knowledge to use financial technology, we can be on the right track to make everyone, particularly the underserved, part of the digital economy."
The European Union Delegation in Ethiopia reiterated that "robust digital economies promote inclusiveness and are accelerated when the workforce is digital savvy". Sanne Willems, Team Leader, Economy and Infrastructure, added, "The world of work and jobs is evolving digitally at a fast pace; therefore, digital skills and literacy are essential to empowering people to take advantage of the opportunities. The EU would like to emphasize that starting digital and financial literacy at a young age is important. And integrating it into programmes specifically aimed at groups that could be easily missed, like rural women, less educated youth, etc., is critical."
State Minister, Ministry of Innovation and Technology-Ethiopia, Huria Ali, gave a keynote speech at the programme.
Sanne Willems, Team Leader, Economy and Infrastructure European Union Delegation in Ethiopia addressed the participants.
Ibrahim Mamma, Country Coordinator, UNCDF Ethiopia took his turn to address the participants.
Endashaw Tesfaye, Digital Finance Country Lead, UNCDF Ethiopia on the Ethiopian situation and the relevance of the survey.
Country Coordinator for UNCDF Ethiopia, Ibrahim Mamma, anchored the importance of the digital and financial literacy survey on UNCDF's flagship intervention - the Inclusive Digital Economies Scorecard (IDES) tool, which helps countries understand and monitor their digital transformation goals.
He said, "the IDES tool promotes the development of Skills, Innovation, Infrastructure and Regulatory and Policy frameworks for ensuring inclusive digital economies are holistically achieved. We must further nurture the scorecard by bringing the much-needed nuance and granularity to data collected on these elements in defining digital literacy. This is the overall gist of this survey, and it will help to complement the Digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy, the National Financial Inclusion Strategy recently launched by the National Bank of Ethiopia and the work of the Ministry of Education in advancing digital literacy and education in Ethiopia."
The forum deep-dived into the current Ethiopian digital and financial literacy situation with breakout sessions, presentations and a detailed review of the questionnaire to be administered. Digital Finance Country Lead for UNCDF Ethiopia, Endashaw Tesfaye, in his presentation, highlighted how the world of work is rapidly evolving towards digital, the limiting effects of low digital and financial literacy and the need to equip citizens with the right digital skillset to enable them access and fully benefit from digital interventions. He touched on similar projects undertaken by UNCDF in other countries and how they contributed to governments' digital transformation efforts.
Jessica Massie, Financial Sector Development Specialist at UNCDF, led the breakout and technical sessions. Participants shared insights on other initiatives undertaken to build Ethiopian citizens' digital capacity. They also identified key considerations that must be prioritized in building citizens' digital skills to enable them to use digital products and services efficiently and safely. Participants from the financial sector, international development space, the digital financial services ecosystem etc., also shared critical feedback and inputs on the questionnaire to be administered in the survey, referencing current country context and perspectives from their sectors. The information gathered will feed into the final structure and delivery of the survey, which is expected to kick off in a few months.
UNCDF, in its market convenor role, is committed to supporting Ethiopia to deepen financial inclusion by collaborating with strategic partners to leverage their unique skills, expertise and knowledge in the delivery of this national survey. The survey will also contribute to efforts to help Ethiopia achieve its digital transformation goals in the time and scope it has envisioned, ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital era.