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LEARNING SERIES >> Catalyzing action on digital payments: Insights from national transformation journeys

© ©Mame Saye Diop

Lessons from developing diagnostics and strategies with Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Philippines, and Senegal

COVID-19 has accelerated the rise of digital payments, as governments have sought ways to respond to the economic and social consequences of the pandemic, and customers have needed digital alternatives because of practical restrictions to cash. The Better Than Cash Alliance offers technical assistance to government members to make the shift from cash to digital – by helping to conduct diagnostic studies and advising on national strategies to help to benchmark and map the priorities. These diagnostics and strategies are powerful tools for governments to use in driving payments digitization in their countries. They are also vital to identifying the key payment streams that will deliver the maximum impact across the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Alliance has worked with the governments of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Philippines, and Senegal since 2018 to conduct comprehensive reviews of their digital payments ecosystems and propose strategies to further the national agendas for digital payments adoption and usage. Such exercises are important building blocks in identifying and measuring the opportunities for growth and inclusion, and two themes have emerged in the journeys to digitization:

  1. It is critical that the whole of government has ownership of and leads a diagnostic or digital payments strategy – to drive and scale up the digitization of payments in line with the development goals in the country
  2. It is essential to build institutional capacity so that recommendations drawn from diagnostics can be implemented sustainably.

In this two-part blog, we discuss the factors that support the implementation of a comprehensive digitization agenda and how Alliance members can build sustainable systems and structures to implement their priorities while adapting to rapid growth.

The insights here are captured from our work in the five countries, completed before the launch of the UN Responsible Digital Payments Guidelines in 2021. These principles had already been incorporated into many of the lessons presented here, and the forthcoming diagnostics will have a further focus on the newly updated practices, which include more emphasis on user-centered digital payments that prioritize women’s inclusion.