Together we shall weather this storm – Bawumia…says time to push digital transactions is now

Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia is hopeful that efforts being put in place by government and stakeholders will help stem the impact of coronavirus on the country’s economy.

“These are truly very challenging times, but I am hopeful that together we shall weather the storm,” the Vice President said at the official launch of Ghana’s Universal QR Code and Proxy Pay system in Accra.

Noting the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, which is very serious, Dr. Bawumia was steadfast in his belief that Ghana will come out stronger. “Besides the additional funds that must be found to spend on fighting the disease, we are losing revenue as the price of crude oil slumps and business activity, both external and internal, are negatively affected,” he said.

Despite the fight against a virus that has so far taken away three lives in Ghana and infected almost 70 people in the country, Dr. Bawumia noted that now is the time to aggressively push a digital payment agenda that leads to a cashless society, because cash is also known to spread the virus.

“We have been always preaching about the many benefits of electronic payments over cash transactions, but never have the benefits been so apparent than these times. It is now clear that electronic payments also have health benefits,” he said.

The QR Code, he explained, leverages on existing technologies to enable traders and businesses receive payments without a point of sale device, which he added will help in checking spread of the virus in the country by limiting use of physical cash. “It also brings about interoperability across all telcos and across all banks and between banks and telcos.”

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Proxy Pay, he added, ensures that every bank account is given a phone number to be a proxy for the bank account number for individuals or a chosen alias for companies. By this, making payments to individual bank accounts can be done through the phone number – similar to mobile money.

“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, economic activity must go on even with social distancing. People must buy and pay for goods and services like food and medicines to exist. The science says that there is a risk of transmission from every item that our hands touch.

“In a cash dominant economy such as ours, the risk inherent in the transmission of the coronavirus through bank notes is something we should be concerned about. It is therefore important that we do everything we can to expedite the wholesale use of electronic payment channels like mobile money, e-zwich, bank accounts etc. in the payment of goods and services from merchants,” he stated.

By doing so, he said, “we can transition Ghana into a near-cashless economy in a very short period of time. I urge all the providers of the Universal QR CODE to make it easier for merchants to get a QR CODE online.”

The two services, he noted, will also offer useful an electronic payment channel that will provide the needed social distance and reduce bodily contact between the customer and merchant: “This is a very important reason why we must still launch the universal QR code and Proxy Pay despite the times we find ourselves in.”

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He therefore commended the central bank and its partner institutions for taking bold steps to encourage electronic payments – including incentives such as reducing charges and pushing up the limits on mobile money transactions among others, all in a bid to reduce human contacts and check the spread of coronavirus.

On his part, Dr. Ernest Addison, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, said although his outfit’s commitment to an effective payment system has seen several major initiatives along the way, there is still more to do in ensuring that more individuals pay for goods and services on a daily basis by using digital means.

The launch of a Unified QR code, he added, is therefore expected to bring a simplified user experience for customers to make payments to any merchant, and for small merchants particularly to receive payment from anyone.

The QR code, according to him, is easy to use and versatile, and will provide a solution to the fragmented e-payment landscape as it is compatible with the available e-payment products such as ATM machines, credit and debit cards, online banking and mobile banking. In addition, it minimises termination of e-payments in cash.

“The introduction of the QR Code is an integral part of the Payment Systems Strategic Plan (2019–2024) captured under the Financial Technologies Strategy Pillar. Therefore, today’s event demonstrates the Bank of Ghana’s commitment to the realisation of this essential pillar of the Payment Systems Strategy,” Dr. Addison indicated.

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