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Sudan commits to cashless future

The Republic of Sudan has committed to accelerate its transition from cash to digital payments by joining the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance .

"Digital payments will improve financial inclusion and transparency throughout Sudan's vast territory, especially in conflict-affected regions, help stem corruption, and build a more direct link between citizens and the state," Dr. Ibrahim Elbadawi, Sudan's minister of finance and economic Planning, said in a statement.

Moving from cash to responsible digital payments is central to the Sudanese government's economic recovery and reform strategy and will hopefully help pave the way for domestic and international investment due to the modernization of the country's financial sector.

"This digital transition will ensure equitable access to resources and government services, and revitalize the private sector, which are central to our efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace and revive the national economy," Elbadawi added.

In particular, digital payments will be critical to the success of the recently announced Sudan Family Support Program, which will provide monthly direct digital transfers to around 80% of Sudanese families. The program seeks to spur economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve food security and health throughout the country.

The transition to digital payments is in line with the Government of Sudan's intention to establish the multi-ministerial Digital Transformation Agency, which will spearhead the modernization of government services, including the Family Support Program.

Moving from cash to responsible digital payments is central to the Sudanese government’s economic recovery and reform strategy.

Sudan has three significant mobile operators, according to statistics from market research company Omdia. The leading operator at the end of 2019 was Zain Sudan with 48.2% market share, Sudatel Sudan had about 24.3% market share and MTN Sudan had the remaining 27.5%.

Mobile money usage is on the rise in Sudan and all three operators have their own Mobile money service. For example, MTN's Mobile Money customers in Sudan grew from 3,000 in the first quarter of 2018 to 18,000 by the end of the fourth quarter 2019. However, this is still a very small percentage of MTN's 9.1 million overall subscribers in Sudan.

The Better Than Cash Alliance has 75 members committed to digitizing payments. These include national governments from Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, as well as companies and international organizations committed to accelerating the transition from cash to digital payments to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

"The vision of the Government of Sudan to ensure nearly universal digital basic income is truly inspiring. Over 30 million Sudanese men and women will benefit from getting government assistance in a speedy, safe and transparent way, giving them new economic opportunities," said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, MD of the Better Than Cash Alliance.

Many of the Alliance members are turning to digitization in their battles against COVID-19, building on their existing efforts and knowledge about the benefits of digital payments.

Moving away from cash will also help Sudan enhance financial transparency as it reintegrates into the global financial system after 30 years of financial isolation and economic mismanagement.