The government of Ghana has launched three new policy initiatives designed to deepen financial inclusion and accelerate digital payments, in line with government’s vision of building a payment system that accelerates economic development.
The policies are the National Financial Inclusion and Development Strategy; Digital Financial Services Policy; and Cash-Lite Roadmap. Announcing them, Minister of Finance Ken-Ofori Atta said: “Digital payments help drive transparency, accountability and efficiency, as well as greater women’s participation in the economy. Moving away from cash helps our country advance toward achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals”.
The National Financial Inclusion and Development Strategy, developed in collaboration with the World Bank, aims at increasing financial inclusion from the current 58 percent to 85 percent by 2023; thus helping create economic opportunities and reducing poverty.
The Digital Financial Services Policy, developed in partnership with CGAP, builds on existing technological gains to create a resilient, inclusive and innovative digital ecosystem that contributes to social development, a robust economy and a thriving private sector.
The Cash-Lite Roadmap, designed in collaboration with the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance, puts forward concrete steps to build an inclusive digital payments ecosystem. This includes better access to financial services, enabling regulation and oversight, and promoting consumer protection.
According to the Finance Minister: “Public and private sector actors need to work hand in hand, digitising in a responsible manner to turn these new policy initiatives into tangible benefits for all Ghanaians. These assertions are even more relevant in the era of COVID-19 pandemic.”
In 2017, the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GHIPPS) – under the auspices of the central bank of Ghana – launched the Mobile Money Interoperability scheme to facilitate simple and convenient movement of funds across mobile money platforms.
In November 2019, the Bank of Ghana Governor, Dr. Ernest Addison, announced an initiative to pilot a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in a Sandbox environment. This would foster competition, reduce the operational costs associated with cash, and move the country closer to achieving its cash-lite objectives.
The central bank has also set up a Fintech and Innovation Office to drive the Bank’s Cash-lite, e-payments and digitisation agenda. Efforts at ensuring development of the FinTech industry culminated in establishment of the Ghana Chamber of Technology by industry players as its umbrella-body. Among other things, the chamber provides a forum for fintechs and payment service providers to share experiences and also serves as a single point of interaction with the central bank and key stakeholders.
Latest figures from GhIPSS show that the use of electronic payment channels which go through the GhIPSS platform went up by 81 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year.
The launch conforms to the call by Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia on financial institutions, telecommunications and fintech sectors to find innovative ways of turning mobile phones and the mobile money platforms into vehicles of economic emancipation for the many players in the large informal sector. He made this statement during the launch of QRPay and Proxypay by the Bank of Ghana in March.
According to Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance: “Ghana is already recognised as a global digital payments success story! We look forward to continuing to work with our member, the government, as well as with the private sector and international organisations to accelerate the new ambitious cash-lite roadmap in a way that is responsible and responsive to the needs of all Ghanaians.”
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, these policies reinforce government’s unwavering commitment to digitising the Ghanaian economy and providing the soft infrastructure that will enable the private sector, payment service providers and all other ecosystem players to innovate digital financial solutions in a conducive environment to the benefit of all Ghanaians.