Veep acknowledges adverse effects of COVID-19 on economy

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Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has acknowledged the adverse effects of COVID-19 on both local and global economies, saying it will result in low revenue mobilisation as prices of crude oil slump on the world market.

Dr. Bawumia said this when he launched the Universal QR Code and Proxy Pay in Accra on Wednesday.

Besides the additional funds that must be found to spend on fighting the disease, we’re losing revenues as the price of crude oil slumps and business activity, both external and internal, are negatively affected.

“These are truly very challenging times, but I am hopeful that together we shall weather the storm,” the Vice President noted.

The Universal QR Code will make it possible for all merchants, service providers and institutions to receive payments from banks, ezwich accounts, mobile money wallets or internationally issued visa or Master Cards instantly.

The QR Code was developed by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) through the Ghana Interbank Payment System (GhIPPS) and will be issued to merchants by universal banks, rural banks, savings and loans companies, telecos and Fintechs.

The launch was streamed live on the Vice President’s Facebook Page, in compliance with the President’s social distancing directive to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vice President said in view of the changing trend of trading worldwide, it is imperative for institutions to be innovative and introduce new products and services to meet the needs of their clients.

The universal QR code is the world’s first interoperable payment acceptance solution and provides customers with an easy option for digital payment on business transactions, which reduces the technological challenges associated with operating a cash-lite society.

The universal QR code will allow merchants to receive digital payments without the use of Point of Sale devices, and countries that recently introduced the Code platforms include Singapore, India and China.

“Any merchant can have a universal QR Code: including chop bar operators, food vendors, barbers, carpenters or masons, musicians, shoe-shine boys, khebab sellers, market traders, trotros, taxis, churches, mosques, schools, funeral committees, wedding organisers – basically, any business,” Dr. Bawumia explained.

“Once a merchant has a QR Code, the customer can scan the code (for a smartphone) or dial the USSD number to make payment.

“The customer will make have to enter and confirm the amount so no one can cheat you. Once the customer confirms the payment, the merchant will receive the payment instantly and directly into their bank account or mobile money account,” the Vice President said.

Dr. Bawumia lauded the Bank of Ghana (BoG) for taking bold steps to encourage electronic payments; including incentives such as reducing charges and pushing up the limits on mobile money transactions.

He believed these measures will reduce human contacts and provide the needed social distance between customers and merchants in the bid to curb spread of COVID-19.

“It is therefore important that we do everything we can to expedite the wholesale use of electronic payment channels like mobile money, ezwich, bank accounts, among others, in the payment of goods and services from merchants,” the Vice President said.

Vice President Bawumia acknowledged efforts of the central bank for putting the requisite infrastructure in place over the past three years to provide the nation a vehicle to go cashless.

With regard to the Proxy pay, he said every bank account will be given a phone number to be a proxy for the Bank Account number of individuals or a chosen Alias for companies.

Therefore, individuals can make payments to one’s bank account through the phone number, similarly to mobile money.

Dr. Bawumia expressed conviction that the new payment platform will enhance business transactions in the country, saying: “This will help us move further into the cashless direction because there will no longer be any need for merchants to have point of sales devices; with the QR Code platform, all they need is a mobile phone and even a ‘yam phone’ will work”.

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