Global Business Identity Initiative Opens in Africa

Zimbabwe-based NMB BankThe Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion, together with Cornerstone Advisory have launched trade finance and digital identity project Basel.

Basel is an international flagship project designed to expand financial inclusion among small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially on the African continent. The project has been realized with the support of the German Federal Government through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The collaborative initiative is equipping SMEs across Africa with global business identities, in the form of Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs).

The LEI is comparable to an international company ID card; it contains good quality business card and ownership structure information about a legal entity which can be verified quickly and efficiently by anyone, anywhere, enabling organizations to know precisely with whom they are doing business.

The verifiable company data results in transparency in the marketplace and builds greater trust between market participants.

Supplying LEIs to African SMEs aims to strengthen financial inclusion in the region by enabling them to apply for trade finance and establish contractual, regulated agreements with banks, payment networks, and trading partners, leading to broader access to financial services and greater participation in both domestic and international markets.

The intention of the initiative is to strengthen Africa’s SME base and increase the flow of inbound capital needed to fuel the continent’s economic development.

Today, Africa’s heterogeneous economies suffer from a severe trade finance gap, which is currently estimated to be more than US$81bn. The limited availability of transparent key reference information for African businesses, together with the perceived risk of trading with them, is a major challenge both to banks seeking to expanding trade finance portfolios on the continent and to international business partners seeking to engage this underutilized, but nascent sector.

By working with African banks to enable them to issue LEIs, the initiative not only addresses this challenge but also aims to reduce the compliance burden associated with stringent anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations.

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