Last week, Mastercard held its second annual Community Pass Summit at Lake Victoria Serena Hotel – Kigo marking a significant milestone in its ongoing efforts to promote digital and financial inclusion in Uganda and beyond.
The Summit convened diverse groups of experts from both the public and private sector, innovators and financial institutions with the end goal of creating sustainable digital and financial solutions for players in the agriculture value chain.
In Uganda, the agricultural sector is the least digitalized in the country, characterized by a limited adoption of technology, innovations, and mechanization across the value chain. These factors continue to undermine the sector’s competitiveness, reducing its productivity and contribution to the economy.
While officiating the summit, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industries, and Fisheries, emphasized the importance of initiatives like Community Pass in creating a transformative impact of digitization in the agriculture sector, especially in areas of record-keeping, market access, and streamlining payment processes for farmers.
“As a ministry, we continue to suffer from insufficient data on farmers’ profiles, dominant crops produced in specific regions, and how to reach and support these farmers. From my understanding of this program, I believe the ministry can harness the digital footprint of the farmer created by Community Pass to develop targeted government initiatives and programs for these farmers, elevate the utilization of agricultural land, which currently stands at 35%, and leverage collaborative efforts with the private sector to uncover innovative ways in which both entities can work together to address existing challenges and enhance the overall efficiency of agricultural practices” Tumwebaze said.
Tumwebaze added, “By collaborating with private players like Mastercard and Yo-Uganda, we hope to create sustainable digital programs that will train and equip our farmers with the digital tools needed to enhance production, access sustainable market linkages, and effectively integrate smallholder farmers into the digital economy. We believe these interventions will increase their household income, improve their quality of life, and eradicate poverty among farmers.”
Community Pass, an initiative of Mastercard, is a shared interoperable platform that provides digital infrastructure and offers a sustainable way for public and private sector entities to create or scale their digital solutions, increasing access to essential services, including agriculture, healthcare, and micro-commerce for last-mile communities with the end goal of improving their livelihoods and enable them to earn more. The platform serves as a unifying force, exemplified by its commitment to shared infrastructure, a digital wallet, and other capabilities that collectively empower us to extend our services effectively to the last mile individuals.
Speaking at the media briefing, Tara Nathan, EVP and Founder of Mastercard Community Pass, highlighted the transformative potential of Community Pass in creating digital inclusion.
Nathan said, “Community Pass is not just a digital platform but a catalyst for change, building a network of trust in the financial ecosystem and bridging the gap between underserved communities by bringing essential services closer to them.”
“Community Pass goes beyond connectivity to fostering sustainable economic opportunities and integrating digitally excluded individuals into the formal digital economy. Through Community Pass, we aim to furnish farmers with a digital footprint, enabling them to not only track their activities but also use the information to build a unique digital identity that will enable them to mitigate the challenging associated accessing critical services like finance thus promoting inclusion and empowering their livelihoods” Nathan added.
According to Saul Weikama, the Digital Economy Practice Lead at the Innovation Village, Community Pass is a crucial component of the Digital Economy Program that Innovation Village is executing with Mastercard as its technology partner.
The program, which aims to reach 3.4 million people living in hard-to-reach communities, has made great strides in providing a training platform under the program Sandbox for technology solution providers like Mobi Pay AgroSys Ltd, Hamwe East Africa Ltd, and Service Cops to scale their solutions and increase their reach in remote communities. In addition, these entities have received deployment device support of 30,000 cards and 200 devices to enable seamless service for players in the agriculture value chain. These devices will help farmers manage their data, production processes, connect with a wider market, and handle transactions.
Weikama said, “The program has made progress in enhancing digital inclusion. To date, we have engaged 167 Farmers Produce Organization (FPO) and reached 35,210 individual farmers in rural areas, including Bundibugyo, Kamuli, Serere, and Amuru districts at 34,474, and an urban reach of 736, of which 17,520 account for women reached so far. Additionally, we have enrolled 163 digital agents to support farmer recruitment and transactions and trained 736 developers to further enhance digital inclusion.”
He added, “By leveraging the shared digital infrastructure created by Community Pass, the program aims to enable the creation of innovative solutions that will bring critical financial and related services closer to communities. Also, the platform will enable innovators to expand their access and reach, reduce costs, and realize new revenue opportunities.
Although technology continues to be pitched as a means for social inclusion, Gloria Namubiru, Smallholder Farmer & Program Coordinator at CEDO, notes that the acceptance of technology and innovation by farmers showcases both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, the utilization of technologies such as Community Pass enables effective monitoring of inputs, efforts, and earnings. However, many farmers lack digital literacy skills, resulting to reluctancy in embracing technology. Additionally, the complexity of digital tools and the expenses associated with devices present challenges, hindering many farmers from fully harnessing the potential of technology.
The Community Pass summit is a critical step towards a collaborative move among ecosystem players in making digital tools and solutions universally accessible in the global evolving economy hence a catalyst for inclusion and positive change within communities.
This was clearly portrayed during the announcement of three major collaborations: the launch of the Yojana card in India, a partnership with Shell Foundation and Co-operative Bank of Kenya to support smallholder farmers, and the introduction of Equity Bank of Uganda’s financial inclusion card. These collaborations aim to bring significant changes in digital and financial inclusion for smallholder farmers and rural communities.