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Singapore Joins IFC, UNDP on Digital Financial Literacy Skills Programme

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) together with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched an open financial education and action initiative tag as SME Financial Empowerment (SFE) for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Asia and Africa.

To help MSMEs thrive in the post-pandemic digital economy, the SFE intends to help them establish their core digital financial literacy skills and gain a good understanding of cross-border financial services relevant to MSMEs. The programme was launched in collaboration with market partners in Asia and Africa, beginning with Ghana, India, the Philippines, and Singapore, and will benefit over 400,000 MSMEs in these regions.

An empowered MSME is essential to an equitable and sustainable digital economy. Such enablement begins with digital economy literacy.

– Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, Monetary Authority of Singapore

The affordable, bite-sized learning programme offered by SFE, he added, is the result of a collaborative effort between financial institutions and the public and private sectors. Through the foundational and global financial literacy programmes, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Asia and Africa will gain new abilities to utilise networks, financial, and digital resources to expand their businesses abroad.

SFE is a global platform that connects domestic SME ecosystems and catalyses cross-border trade, financing, and digital services. It is an inclusive and organised programme that is conducted on a web portal.

Furthermore, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), and the Global FinTech Institute (GFI) are among the other important supporters of the SFE. The SFE’s goal for 2022 is to help MSMEs in three areas: essential financial digital skillsets, MSME financial services, and digital economy access and growth.

The first phase of the programme will consist of two learning modules that will focus on essential financial digital skillsets such as (a) Foundational Financial Literacy, which will cover basic financial concepts and financial products important to MSMEs; and (b) Global Financial Literacy, which will prepare MSMEs to connect to the digital economy and expand internationally by leveraging networks, financial services, fintech solutions, and digital tools.

Additional learning modules will be offered in subsequent instalments. Businesses will obtain a digitally verifiable certificate from SUSS and GFI upon completion of each module, granting access to financial services tools and information services via a resource portal.

Meanwhile, the SFE builds on a previous Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between MAS and IFC on the Financial Trust Corridor (FTC) initiative, which aims to promote greater financial knowledge sharing, financial trust, and financial inclusion for MSMEs and financial institutions in developing countries.

The FTC consists of a multi-party cross-border governance framework and trusted closed-loop digital infrastructure that governments and financial institutions from various countries can use to share verified information on foreign business counterparties and the financial institutions that support them. This information will facilitate funding access for companies engaged in international trade.

In many nations, SMEs account for up to 90 per cent of the business segment and up to 80 per cent of employment. However, the potential of SMEs is frequently hampered by knowledge gaps regarding digital processes and technologies. Through suitable training and digital finance skills, assisting SMEs to engage in the digital economy can generate productive and sustainable growth potential.

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