Transforming Africa Through Information and Communication Technologies.

Position:Communication feature

Japan and its private sectors are known for their ability to take up a new technology and tailor it to fit local needs and conditions. Together, Africa and Japan can find solutions for immediate problems on social and economic fronts.

Africa's economic growth potential, according to various reports including those of the United Nations, is among the highest in the world due in part to its youthful population, which is forecasted to double from 1.25 billion in 2017 to 2.5 billion by 2050. Yet, it faces a number of challenges including a lack of reliable infrastructure and a shortage of qualified human resources. There's good news, too: with its large young population and through the innovative application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Africa can "leapfrog" some steps in building hard infrastructure and instead create an alternative development model. African countries can forge strong partnerships with other nations in making this dramatic shift, and Japan can be certainly one of them.

Mozambique: e-Bank in off-grid, off-line villages--an alternative money story?

When Nippon Biodiesel Fuel (NBF), a Japanese biofuel startup, introduced an electronic money system at a kiosk shop in a remote village 2,000 km north of the capital of Mozambique, customers started charging fairly large amounts of their farm income to their IC cards. The shop was originally installed to sell basic goods and services produced from its community-based jatropha electrification project.

Makoto Goda of NBF realised that substantial needs existed for the safe storage of cash. Approximately 80% of the adult population, which lives mostly in rural areas, has no access to formal banking services, and charging IC cards was the safest way for them to store their money. Inspired by this unexpected use of IC cards, the idea of establishing a mobile bank was conceived. NBF partnered with MobiTel, a Vietnamese mobile phone company focusing its services on rural areas, and embarked on a journey to establish an alternative financial system.

A simple system using contactless IC cards and a Point of Sales system to keep transaction records installed in tablets can be implemented in areas with intermitted network connection without an electricity supply. Used for daily shopping, IC cards keep farmers' transaction data and provide credit information necessary for microfinance services.

NBF already introduced an electronic voucher system in Mozambique in...

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