What is Digital Baobab

Why Us?

At Digital Baobab we have experience across financial services, technology and development spanning three decades. During that time, we have witnessed fundamental change in how these sectors can enable the attainment of global development goals. Today, developing countries are in a position to leapfrog the legacy financial and technological infrastructure in place in other parts of the world to allow them to get a head start in building the digital economies of tomorrow. We believe that this cross-fertilisation of learned-experiences over industries, regions and time can deliver the socio-economic returns necessary to permit some of the world’s poorest countries to reach their next level of development.

What we do

Sitting at the intersection of the public, private and development sectors, Digital Baobab enables a cross-section of stakeholders to come together to solve some of the world’s most intractable development problems. We work with governments, regulators and multilateral development institutions to bring an evidence base to the policy prescriptions necessary to allow developing countries to transition to a digital economy. We facilitate the connections and partnerships required with private sector participants to ensure that these ambitions are realistic and can be delivered upon. We assist private sector companies in putting in place monitoring and evaluation systems that measure the impact their activities have on the attainment of development goals. Overarching this, we draw upon our own deep experience as practitioners to provide insight, thought leadership and technical assistance to all stakeholders in this process to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Our specialist areas include:

Digital Financial Services

Mobile technology has brought a revolution to how financial services and particularly payments are delivered to the previously unbanked in developing countries. While legacy banking infrastructure has limited how low value accounts can be serviced elsewhere, in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia mobile money has ensured that they are thriving. With mobile money now established in in these regions, attention is now turning to how its payments ecosystem can be expanded.

At Digital Baobab we have been involved with the mobile money from its inception advocating for the industry and how it can facilitate the attainment of global development goals. We continue to work with a range of stakeholders to determine how the range of use cases for mobile money can be expanded such that it can become the payments backbone that underpins the rise of the digital economy across the developing world.

Remittances and Cross-Border Payments

Remittance flows into developing countries are a greater financial flow than either foreign direct investment or overseas development assistance. They are a lifeline to these countries and the underserved communities in receipt of them. Yet the costs to sending remittances remains stubbornly high despite the targets of SDG 10.c and ambitions of the Global Compact on Migration. The low-cost digital innovation we have seen elsewhere has yet to be reflected in cross-border payments.

At Digital Baobab we have international payments expertise spanning three decades in both developed and developing countries. Today, we remain close to the initiatives that aim to bring the different stakeholders together to address cross-border payment bottlenecks. We contribute to multilateral working groups convened by the World Bank, the UN and the G20 and we will continue to lend our expertise in these areas going forward bring our private sector expertise to bear. If you have ideas or suggested technical solutions of how the broader community can solve these problems we would love to hear from you.

Digital Economy

Transitioning to the digital economy will assist developing countries in meeting many of their development goals. This is recognised in the central role that the digital economy plays in many countries’ national development plans. In some respects, the lack of legacy banking, payments and communication infrastructure assists in this transition. Yet the barriers remain many-fold – digital communication infrastructure, digital inclusion, digital identity, digital literacy and financial inclusion.

At Digital Baobab we assist in promoting an enabling policy & regulatory environment and facilitating the public private partnerships necessary to develop the foundations for the digital economy including infrastructure, literacy and identity. This includes technical assistance to policy makers, capacity building for regulators and strategic advisory to private sector stakeholders and governments.

Taxation and Development

Domestic resource mobilisation is key to developing countries funding the basic public services their populations most desperately need. Digital touches on the world of taxation in a number of ways. Firstly, digital, and mobile especially, offers revenue authorities the means to improve efficiency and productivity when it comes to tax collection. Yet the move to the digital economy and online trade in goods and services also threatens existing sources of domestic revenue which may not be so replaced. This has led to governments attempting to tax the infrastructure that underpins the digital economy rather than the economic activity and income that derives from it.

At Digital Baobab we facilitate the dialogue between revenue authorities, the private sector and think tanks necessary to ensure that digital and ICT are seen as an asset by which developing countries can widen their tax base and improve collection efficiency without undermining the development of the local digital economy. In addition, we conduct research and provide capacity building to the these stakeholders to aid mutual understanding and to ensure that digital advancements in domestic resource mobilisation are an inclusive process.

Trade and Development

With the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) increasing attention is being given to the role that trade can play in the development of emerging economies. With the digital economy being at the forefront of the development agenda, attention is being paid to the role that digital trade may play between these countries.

At Digital Baobab we advocate for creating an enabling environment for digital trade between developing countries. We have given keynotes on the subject at the WTO and cooperated with UNCTAD on the subject, highlighting the barriers that exist today only some of which will ultimately be addressed by AfCFTA. We remain at the disposal of the international community, governments and private sector alike on how to take the agenda forward.