Banks in the country have called for more consultations ahead of the Bank of Ghana’s (BoG) decision to implement the e-cedi currency. The electronic currency, among other reasons, is aimed at enhancing low transaction costs, improving security of payments, as well as ensuring higher monetary transaction limits.
Even though the banks are optimistic that introduction of the e-Cedi will achieve its set targets, they are however not enthused about the level of engagement between the central bank and banks in the country.
“The industry looks forward to additional consultation and dialogue with the BoG, as they believe such further consultation will enable greater understanding of the e-cedi and assist their preparedness toward its successful implementation,” the 2021 PwC Ghana Banking Survey Report revealed.
In the report titled ‘Digital Currencies: Is the Ghanaian Banking Sector Ready?’, 85% of bank executives interviewed stressed that the BoG must ensure the principles of confidentiality, data privacy and security are incorporated into the e-cedi’s design to help build trust.
In addition, the banks demanded that the BoG involve the industry in developing legislation and regulations governing the e-cedi, while 80% of executives interviewed expect the regulator to consult the industry in determining the pricing structure for e-cedi-based products.
This, according to them, will encourage uptake of the digital currency when it is launched. The report showed that 60% of bank executives are believe the role played by the central bank in the e-cedi project will determine – in a significant way – the success or otherwise of an e-cedi currency.
The banks are of the view that implementation of the e-Cedi will be a success if the BoG clearly publishes the cost incurred as a result of the infrastructural requirements associated with the project.
“There is currently insufficient clarity around legislation/regulations, technical and funding support that would be availed, and the role expected of banks in the currency’s deployment. This makes them (banks) uneasy about any potential demands the central bank will place on them when it launches the e-cedi.”
According to the report, the banks identified insufficient knowledge about the technology and currency form by both staff and customers of banks; funding; and regulatory uncertainty as the top-three challenges currently associated with the e-cedi project.
They acknowledged that these challenges could very well be misplaced, and look forward to them being addressed by the central bank through increased engagement, a ramping-up of public awareness creation, and education.
The banks are of the view that if they are sufficiently informed on what to expect, they can ascertain if their current infrastructure and platforms are fit for purpose and determine what investments are necessary.
“Other operational areas that banks insist must engage the design-attention of the central bank and its solutions partner are the basic requirements of cybersecurity and data protection, which are fundamental to building trust among the users of any financial product.”
According to the banks, it is important for the BoG to balance, very carefully, the key requirement of security against other objectives such as higher transaction speeds and lower transaction costs, aiming overall to achieve a balance that keeps security sacrosanct.
More than nine in 10 of the bankers were agreed that the digital currency will have a net positive impact on the wider economy in general and the banking industry in particular, as it will deepen financial inclusion, provide additional thrust for the country’s comprehensive digitalisation agenda as well as provide an avenue for improved execution of monetary policy.
Two-thirds of senior executives surveyed were optimistic that the e-cedi will result in enhanced process optimisation and bigger electronic ticket transactions – “which can lead to enhanced credit delivery and financial intermediation”.
Touching on some key themes raised in the report in an interview with the B&FT, Managing Director of the Republic Bank, Farid Antar, stated that he is personally excited by the world of possibilities digital currency presents – a sentiment shared by his outfit.
He is particularly enthused about its prospects for driving financial services toward persons in rural and urban areas, especially in light of the central bank’s announcement that the currency will have offline features to enable access in areas with poor or little connectivity.
“The e-cedi will also have a bearing on the environment, as there should be a reduction in how many bills we print and cost of destroying badly damaged notes,” he said in reference to a question about oft-overlooked benefits.
This comes as the BoG, in its annual report for 2020, indicated that the cost of printing the cedi was up 10.22% from GH¢306.2million in 2019 to GH¢337.5million in 2020. He added that Republic Bank is gearing-up for the launch and will provide products and services which take advantage of the digital currency.