Financial inclusion is a public good—Panellists

Every stakeholder that plays a role in driving innovation and economic growth in Ghana stands to strongly benefit from a financially included society, panellists at the second edition of the B&FT-organised quarterly Ghana’s Most Respected CEOs Breakfast Series have said.

A financially included society describes where any person, irrespective of tribe, sex or religion, can access any or every form of financial service.

Employing electronic and digital means and channels to attaining a financially included society cuts cost of operations, provide a secure economic environment while offering convenience and cheaper financial services to consumers.

“Financial inclusion is a public good. It is going to benefit everybody in society. It benefits government in tax collection, service providers see a rise in revenues and job creation and customers experience convenience and confidence in the financial system,” Dr. Settor Amediku, Head of Payment Systems at the Bank of Ghana said.

He added that electronic payment is now serving as the means to overcoming financial inclusion challenges faced by 42 percent of rural folks and the urban poor.

“Electronic payment is the vehicle and financial inclusion is the target,” he added, noting that the recently passed Payment Systems and Services Act, is expected to drive innovation and lead to a financially included society.

“We all need to come together to ensure that we promote financial inclusion. When we are all financially included cost of finance can reduce. This is something everyone should work towards. In the develop economies, due to the fact that some are 100percent financially included, the economies run better and people in such societies live better lives. We hope that by 2023, we should attain a society that is at least 75percent financially included,” Dr. Amediku pointed out.

This quarter’s event, which was on the theme: National Agenda for E-payment and Financial Inclusion: the Role of the Stakeholders, came off in Accra and witnessed attendance from government executives, regulators, banks, Fintechs, and other financial services providers and consumers.

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Other speakers include Martinson Obeng-Agyei, Director, Vodafone Cash; Tara Squire, Head, Consumer Banking Ecobank; Maximus Ametorgoh, CEO and Founder, popOut; and Archie Hesse, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS),

The session was moderated by George Babafemi, Chief Operating Officer, eTranzact.

Archie Hesse, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), explained that financial inclusion is to see all funds lodged with banks so that individuals and businesses have access to financial services such as credit and others and with efficient electronic platforms, that can be achieved.

“There is the need for us to migrate to electronic platforms such as mobile money, mobile banking, internet banking or any other means that reduces the cash in the system. Globally, electronic payments are faster and much more reliable than physically travelling to make payments,” he said.

In Ghana, he noted that, the physical cash in use is not printed locally. “So if we continue to rely on cash, we are losing forex because that is what we use to purchase the cash. If we migrate to electronic payment platforms, that money will be put to other uses. Migrating to electronic platform also allows the government to receive the appropriate tax and the Central Bank can determine exactly how much money is in the system and come out with better and accurate monetary policy,” Mr. Hesse noted.

Martinson Obeng-Agyei, Director of Vodafone Cash, urged that government and regulators to work with industry players to deliver a financially included society. “Nothing will move if government and regulation do not give direction,” he said, adding that mobile money operators, such as Vodafone Cash, are not banks but mobile financial service players.

To him, the ultimate aim of the telcos is to bridge the gap between the bank and the unbanked. “Consumers have built trust with their mobile money service providers as against their banks. In the mind of the customer, the money is with the telco but not the bank. Meanwhile the money is in the bank. We are not a bank but a service provider that bridges a gap between the consumer and the bank,” he added.

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Tara Squire, Head of Consumer Banking at Ecobank, noted that collaboration among players such as telcos and banks and regulation have been at the forefront of the change being experienced today. “Regulation has paved the way for us to be where we are and at the same time, regular collaboration between the banks and the telecom companies have worked hand in hand to achieve the goals today,” he added.

He therefore called for further stakeholder engagement: “If you look at mobile money today, for example, no telco would claim it was due to its sole influence or effort that has brought mobile money to where it is today. The financial inclusion journey has been supported by all stakeholders including financial technology companies (fintechs). This has been a holistic approach,” he said.

Maximus Ametorgoh, CEO and Founder of popOut, added that consumers must be educated on why and how they can virtualise their cash and access it wherever they find themselves in paying for services or transferring money. “We need to educate people on why they need to and how to digitise and safety and security measures to put in place to secure their platforms. We need to encourage businesses to collect payments digitally,” he said.

He also called for a fixed-based cost system because the current system of commission on every transaction is costly and dissuade consumer from utilising electronic platforms for making payments for goods and services.

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