Country Manager at AZA Finance, a cross-border payment provider, Nana Yaw Owusu-Banahene, has described central bank digital currencies (CBDC) as the next major layer in the evolution of the pan-African cross-border payment framework.
In his estimation, the enhanced interoperability offered by CBDCs makes them the ideal vehicle to surmount existing operational-level challenges. This, he suggests, has gained added importance as more than 100 countries are currently at different stages of developing their respective CBDCs, with nine fully operational, as of March 2022.
“Looking at it from the perspective of interoperability, there are many potential advantages. Currently, Ghana is piloting the e-Cedi, we have Nigeria, which has rolled out its e-Naira. These platforms can attain deep integration, and when that happens you take away almost all the operational-level challenges and systems and platforms.
It is almost like throwing your physical cash across the border into another country. CBDCs would be the ideal way of solving the cross-border challenges,” he said ahead of the second edition of The Money Summit (TMS), organised by the Business and Financial Times (B&FT), a leading provider of business information.
The Money Summit, which is the foremost gathering of major financial sector players in the country, will have as its theme: ‘Africa’s Economic Growth: Facilitating Investment, Payment and Settlement Systems’.
CBDCs, MoMo to play major role
Taking the interoperability argument further, the AZA Finance Country Manager said with the vast number of people outside the traditional banking system, coupled with the prevalence of mobile money on the continent, discussions must begin to include mobile money on the CBDC platform.
“We must begin looking beyond just bank accounts, and include mobile money in the discussion because now the majority of the African population has mobile money,” he remarked.
Globally, mobile money transactions grew by more than 31 percent in 2021 and in the process, surpassed the US$1trillion mark for the first time, with sub-Saharan Africa – particularly West Africa – being the primary driver of the growth. The figure is set for a boost as in the region’s largest economy, Nigeria, the most widely-used telecommunication network – MTN – recently received final approval from its central bank to begin operating its Momo Payment Service Bank.
Locally, mobile money transactions reached GH¢82.9billion and GH¢76.2billion, in December 2021 and January 2022, respectively, according to data from the Bank of Ghana.
With regulation still pending on cryptocurrencies, Mr. Owusu-Banahene said there is a growing shift in perception regarding cryptocurrencies, suggesting that it is likely to serve a complementary role to other digital currencies.
“We have progressed from where cryptocurrencies came in and the perceptions were highly unfavourable. Globally, several central banks and partner watchdogs are looking at ways to regulate it from an asset perspective, and are looking for ways to bring it onboard… I foresee it being complementary. The real question is, how quick are we going to put some of these things together without sacrificing due diligence?”
Touching on the Pan African Payments and Settlement Systems (PAPSS), Mr. Owusu-Banahene noted that it would be wrong to consider the current iteration of PAPSS as final, saying such a position would lead to a misunderstanding of what the platform intends to solve as well as what it is capable of.
“PAPSS is the first major step in the right direction when it comes to a centralised payment system for the continent. For many years, we have heard talks but seen little action about an integrated, continent-wide payment platform. We must, however, be careful to understand that it is not the finished product, and will continue to evolve,” Mr. Owusu-Banahene said.
The Money Summit 2022
The 2022 edition of the Money Summit will have as its focus, payments as a gateway to developing financial systems on the continent following the recently launched PAPSS under two plenary sessions. There will be presentations from the Bank of Ghana (BoG); Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS); PAPSS, and the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC).
The first plenary session, which will feature AZA Finance’s Country Manager, would share thoughts on the topic: ‘Africa’s Payment and Settlement System; Opportunities, Challenges, and the Way Forward’.
Other panelists will include Dr. Settor Amediku, Head of Payment Systems at BoG; Afua Adubea Koranteng, Managing Partner at Koranteng & Koranteng Legal Advisors; Ato Okyir, Group Head, New Ventures (Technology Innovation) at Letshego Group; and Attah Yeboah Gyan, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Fidelity Bank; who will share thoughts on the aforementioned topic. This session would be moderated by Prince Moses, General Manager at Asaase Radio.
The second session, on the topic: ‘Enhancing Investors’ Confidence: Critical Vehicle to Driving Economic Growth’, will have Deborah Agyemfra, Deputy Director General at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); Ekow Afedzie, Managing Director at the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE); Victor Asante, Managing Director at FBN Bank Ghana; Professor Mahmoud Abdulai Mahmoud, Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) speaking on the theme. The session would be moderated by Josephine A Offei, a Business Consultant.
Media partners include the Global Media Alliance, e.TV Ghana, Happy FM, Citi FM, Citi TV and Asaase Radio.