Let’s develop continental e-Payment cards to replace Visa, Mastercard – Ursula
Minister of Communication and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu Ekuful, has charged financial technology (Fintech) industry players in Africa to channel their energies into developing Africa-specific electronic payment cards to replace the international ones like Visa, Mastercard and others.
According to her, the talent and innovations in the fintech industry in Africa clearly shows that there is no reason why Africans should keep using international payment cards like Visa and Mastercard and keep paying steep fees of up to 3.5% of the amount transacted into foreign bank accounts belonging to those companies.
“Why can’t we develop our own local and continental cards and reduce the fees for our people and also keep all of that money within the continent to finance our development,” she asked.
“We have done it with mobile money, and I believe we can do it with e-payment and credit cards,” she said.
The Minister was delivering her keynote address on day two of the ongoing Ghana Canadian Diaspora Investment Summit in Toronto, Canada, organized by the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) to strategically engage the Ghanaian Diaspora with the view to attracting their long-term investments and partnerships for Ghana’s development.
The theme for the summit if “Grow in Ghana, grow with Ghana”.
The Minister said she has for a while now been urging players in the fintech industry to start looking at that direction, and she believes even the need to develop Africa-specific e-payment/credit cards presents a huge investment opportunity for Ghanaians in the diaspora to collaborate with the players in the Ghanaian fintech industry to create such solutions for the continent.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful lauded the Bank of Ghana for creating the enabling environment through legislation for Ghana to now have one of the most dynamic Fintech industries on the continent, with 71 licensed players creating loads of jobs and also driving financial inclusion through innovation.
She would note that the fintech firms across the continent, have made payments at all levels very convenient, safe and transparent, and brought accountability to simple stuff like religious (church offerings) and social (funeral) contribution, because funds given for such purposes could easily be tracked.
The Minister also took note of further measures being implemented by the Bank of Ghana to grow the industry further and deepen financial inclusion in support of the government’s digital transformation agenda. She made particular mention of the central bank’s eCedi piloting and the recent launch of a regulatory and innovation sandbox.
She was however worried that Ghana is dragging its feet on recognizing cryptocurrency as legal, saying that cryptocurrency is happening, and Ghana can no longer sit on the fence and pretend it is not.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful noted that whereas it is good for the central bank to be piloting the eCedi, which is backed by the Ghana cedi, it is also important to acknowledge that cryptocurrency, which is deemed illegal in Ghana and many other countries, is happening and fast gaining legitimacy, so “we must watch that space keenly”.
The Minister compared crypto today to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) like WhatsApp call, Facebook call, Telegram call and others in the past, saying that VoIP used to be illegal, and several steps were taken to clamp down on operators that allowed it then, but today it is the norm.
“In the same vein, cryptocurrencies that are now illegal may very well become the norm many years down the line,” she said.
Bank of Ghana has since June 2018, issued a circular declaring cryptocurrency illegal in Ghana, and therefore warning all financial institutions not to transact in crypto, and also cautioned the public against all crypto platforms.
The central bank has since made it a practice to always go after any crypto platform that emerges in Ghana and warn the public against doing business with such “unlicensed” and “illegal” platforms.
Meanwhile, the BoG is currently piloting its own central bank digital currency (CDBC) called the eCedi, which, unlike cryptocurrency, is backed by Ghana’s cedi and BoG, and can be trusted to be more stable.
It is worth noting that BoG has also included firms undertaking innovations around blockchain in the recently launched Regulatory and Innovation Sandbox.
But while the BoG is busily stifling all local initiatives in the crypto space, some international players are already in Ghana doing business in various ways.
Some of the crypto firms in Ghana include Binance (AFCON partners), Mara (GFA partners), Chipper Cash, BitSika, Payplux, BitAfrica and Yellowcard among others, and it is not clear who regulates those businesses.
Meanwhile, Ghanaian veteran technologist, Prof Nii Narku Quaynor is known to have been mining a lot of Bitcoins for years, and his company, Ghana Dot Com even launched Bitcoin ATMs in the University of Cape Coast sometime back.