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Unlocking DFS innovation in Uganda: The role of Open APIs

Unlocking DFS innovation in Uganda: The role of Open APIs

By Richard Ndahiro and Bram Peters, UNCDF MM4P in Uganda
June 26 , 2017
Kampala, UGANDA - 

Mobile financial services in Uganda have come a long way and continue to hold huge potential for enabling access to financial and none-financial services for a large share of the population. Mobile money has grown from being a just money remittance service to become a platform that enables the delivery of many more innovative products and services.

Mwende Vincent, a coffee farmer in Kapchorwa was introduced to PAYG solar as part of UNCDF’s work in digitising agro-value chains. Vincent was able to have light in his home because he could pay for it in small instalments over time, making it affordable to acquire the home solar system. Delivering such a service is made possible by integrating the services of a solar company and a telecom company (mobile money). The integration is technically enabled by an application programming interface (API).

Many other services we enjoy today are enabled by APIs. A farmer accessing weather information by SMS, a market vendor receiving a micro loan or saving on mobile, being able to order for a cab (Uber) or a ‘boda-boda’ (Safeboda) in Kampala, are all enabled by APIs.

An API is what allows software programmes to talk to one another to enable the delivery of a given service. APIs connect third-parties (developers, fintechs etc.) to established payments platforms (of for example telecoms and banks), enabling the delivery of innovative services that address needs of many customers.

Recently, the UNCDF MM4P programme in Uganda was involved in technology innovation contests for young developers (DataHack4FI and MTN App Challenge)  in Kampala. The innovative solutions presented were very encouraging about the potential for digital innovation to provide solutions to some of the pressing community challenges in agriculture, health, financial services, transport, and education. When asked teams that stood out what was holding them from taking their solutions to market, they mentioned access to the necessary APIs from payment service providers (PSPs).

By lowering the barriers to access key APIs, PSPs open up the innovation space for external developer talent to propose new solutions to the market. The benefits of this are immense for stakeholders: more solutions, more usage, more revenue.

Whereas the concept of Open APIs has been around for a while, in East Africa and Uganda in particular, it remains quite a new concept and business model for industry players.

Tomorrow 27th June 2017, MM4P Uganda is convening digital financial services (DFS) industry players in the country to discuss how to leverage Open APIs to unlock DFS innovation for the benefit of everyone. Attending will be top executives and decision makers from telecoms, banks, fintechs, regulators, donors and NGOs in the DFS space. The event will feature international and local key note speakers and panellists, experts in DFS and Open APIs.

Together, industry players will explore the concept of Open APIs and the benefits it holds for the DFS sector in Uganda. We will hear from the fintech community about their experience and challenges when dealing with DFS providers and the opportunities they see in open APIs. We will also hear from key DFS providers on the challenges they foresee in the progression towards openness in DFS. Industry players will also discuss what it takes to get started, from the business considerations, to the operational and technology considerations.

With more awareness and a shared understanding among industry players about the subject, MM4P will continue to engage with the sector to see traction on the path towards open APIs in Uganda. 

To join the event, register through this link.

For more information, please contact
Naomi de Groot
KM Consultant, Uganda
Bram Peters
Technical Specialist, Digital Finance
Additional Information
Naomi de Groot
KM Consultant, Uganda