Equitable access to digital economy key to build resilience

Carl Manlan/Dubai
Filed on September 23, 2021
Wam file photo

Access expands possibilities for those that build businesses, strengthen communities and create employment along the way.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have always been about access. Access to clean water and sanitation, access to sustainable cities and communities among 14 other goals. In designing a pathway for local actions translating into global progress, the UN ensured that actors would leverage on their strengths through partnerships. In this regard, SDG 17 — Partnership for the Goals — unlocks access for youth, women and artisans alike.

This ambitious programme, derailed by the pandemic, aims to enable prosperity for more through coalitions of public, private and civil society organisations. Speaking recently at SDG Moment, held in advance of the UN’s 76th General Assembly – themed “Building resilience through hope”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reinforced the importance — and increased relevance — of the SDGs today, describing them as a “path to recovery” for a world that “is challenged like never before”.

Thus, it is important to design partnerships that build resilience through access. Access expands possibilities for those that build businesses, strengthen communities and create employment along the way. One of these partnerships in action is a women-led business, Native Nosi, which preserved her family honey’s heritage while embracing digital payments at an affordable cost with Yoco. Mokgadi Mabela has built resilience through her skills with the invisible hand of regulations that allows financial technology to make her receive payments for the goods her husband dispatches.

In Egypt, paynas leveraged on its agent banking license to offer micro, small, and medium businesses (MSMBs) and contractors in Egypt a platform which combines HR management tools and flexible financial solutions to the largest segment of the Egyptian population--those employed in MSMBs. This solution enables businesses to overcome their challenges in terms of workforce management, along with availing financial offerings and other benefits to their employees. This partnership will ensure equality of access to finance and insurance for businesses in Egypt which employ over 75 per cent of the workforce.

Yet, barriers remain with respect to access to quality education as well as decent work and economic growth. In trying to remove these barriers, STEM power is also leveraging financial education assets to equip young Ethiopians to thrive in the digital world. In doing so, the skills acquired become the thread that weaves innovation and entrepreneurship into employment opportunities.

In Indonesia, the pandemic provided Gojek with an opportunity to upskills 950,000 micro, small and medium businesses leaders. Leveraging on Visa’s financial education tools, MSMBs skills on key business tools, knowledge, and insights to maintain and grow their businesses were strengthened. By engaging youth and MSMBs, we are able advance towards a more equitable society where financially educated communities thrive in the digital world.

Solidarity was an important element to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. Governments across the world sought to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable. In Guatemala, Nancy Gomez, leveraged the Government Bono Familia Aid scheme to keep the family going as she had to close her business due to physical distancing measures which limited her activity.

From Indonesia to Guatemala via South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia, access remains the most critical enabler of human progress. The SDGs were built on the premise that cooperation would unlock access for more across all the SDGs. As a trusted network that drives commerce forward, we at Visa are making progress and we shall continue to enable individuals, communities, and businesses to be more resilient by expanding their ability to increase their access to the digital economy through financial education.

The writer is a vice-president social impact Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Visa. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect this newspaper's policy.

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