UN reports cash is still king but digital payment is on the rise (Ghana)


By Bernard Yaw | Business & Financial Times, Ghana September 29, 2017

Despite the massive improvements recorded in digital payments among individuals, businesses and the government, cash still remains the predominant mode of payment in terms of value and volume in the country, a new report by the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance, has shown.

The report, which was published this month, noted that 37percent of the GH¢571billion of payments made in 2016 were done digitally, however, the 98.72percent of the 6.8billion payments by volume are still being made in cash.

“The strong preference for cash in Ghana is a result of the high costs of digital payments that are often passed on to users, i.e., charging customers a fee to use credit cards, and a lack of trust in, or familiarity with, digital payments,” it noted.

This report, under the theme: ‘Building an Inclusive Digital Payments Ecosystem: The Way Forward’, assesses Ghana’s progress to date, and sets out specific policy recommendations that can accelerate Ghana’s journey toward a more digital economy.

It draws on a fast-growing body of knowledge about success factors in similar markets. It also examines three areas of specific focus – government fees and fines, public utility payments, and the fast-moving consumer goods sector – where digitization can have particularly powerful impacts.

Government Leadership

The report noted that the government is leading efforts to digitize payments. “In setting policy direction through ministerial statements and in digitizing its own payments, including conditional cash transfer programs such as Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the 86percent of the value of government payments which is now digital shows the government’s leadership,” it added.

The report alluded the progress made in digitising payment to good internet connectivity, levels of financial inclusion in Ghana above the regional average, expansive mobile money agent networks, solid payments infrastructure, and continuously improving regulation spearheaded by the Bank of Ghana (BoG).

Benefits

This move, it noted, is already translating into direct benefits to people, particularly women, support for small businesses and cost savings for the government. The data predicts that if the government continues to make progress, savings could reach over GH¢250 million each year, which may result in more than GH¢1 billion by 2020.

Mobile Money is Preferred Digital Platform

Out of the several digital platforms including cards, internet banking, mobile money and others, mobile money accounts for the largest proportion, representing 90percent of all transactions initiated by digital payment instruments in Ghana in 2016, and over 77percent of the value of all transactions initiated by digital instruments in that period.

This growth in mobile money, the report noted, is thanks largely to significant effort and investment by several mobile network operators following the regulatory changes that came into effect in 2015 enabling electronic money to be issued by both regulated financial institutions and licensed non-bank entities.

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, in a statement said: “The future really is digitization and how we can leverage on it for the benefit of our citizens. This is why digitizing initiatives such as our flagship conditional cash transfer program Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) is a key milestone.

We recognize that there is still more work to do to transition most of the country away from cash. Yet with great potential for cost savings and opportunities to increase transparency and accountability, we cannot afford not to,” the Minister added.

Recommendations

The report noted that to sustain the development in digital payments, Ghana must focus on three priorities: investing in infrastructure for digital public utility payments, digitizing payment of government fees and fines and encouraging digital payments in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) value chain to support digitization of small retailers and customers.

“We want to congratulate the Government of Ghana for its leadership in building the foundation for an economy less dependent on cash. Under this leadership, the country is making considerable strides to improve transparency, accelerate opportunities for economic growth and empower women by bringing them into the formal financial system,” said Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the Better Than Cash Alliance.

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