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Mobile Payment Systems Roundtable Discussion I

3 August 2011

Yesterday, I got to be in a Roundtable discussion on Regulatory Platform to facilitate the growth of mobile payment systems (MPS) in Ghana.
Even though the venue (Movenpick Ambassador Hotel) was imposing, I found the participants more intimidating. First of all, about 99% of participants were in suit and/or tie. I had not expected to be able to sit in the meeting, because I was escorting my boss off to the venue… then I was allowed to register and sit in.

Looking at he program made me shiver more. However, I took my cool and consoled myself with my identity as a Ghanaian. This was necessary because I stood out from the mass in my shirt made from traditional African cloth.

With 30 minutes behind schedule, the Chief Director of the Ministry of communications, organisers of the event, opened the discussion by introducing the members of the panel which included the Minister of Communications, Hon. Haruna Iddisu, Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor (Chairperson), representatives of the UNDP Country Director and Head of UK Trade and Investment. These reps took turns to show their solidarity to the use of MPS in Ghana. The Minister’s keynote address contained a host of praises for industry players in the quest to realise mobile payment systems which had a huge potential in Ghana. However, his major concern bordered on security of users and user information. He took leave shortly after his address.

MOC Chief Director (described by the Minister as the sole advocate for MPS in Ghana), handed over the audience to the Chairperson (Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor) for the first session of presentations. To begin the session, Dr. Richard Boateng from the the African Institute for Development Informatics and Policy made a presentation on MPS and the Opportunities for Ghana. Looks like he came from a consumer’s perspective. He identified two reasons for the slow uptake of MPS in Ghana as opposed to the mPesa in Kenya. The reasons were that there were very few services linked to the mobile payment systems in Ghana. Currently, MPS could only be used for bill payment, airtime topup and money transfers. Therefore, the consumers ask themselves, “what can I use it for”. This is especially because existing money transfer systems (Instant Money Transfer by Ghana Post, and “Fa ko ma me”, by inter-city transport operators) are still functioning properly.
Further, the whole process of even registering and/or using MPS has not been demystified enough to the ‘ordinary’ subscriber on the street. To salvage this situation, Dr. Boateng called on government to demonstrate confidence in MPS by accepting them as optional payment methods for government services like passport, and driver license application. This would encourage the populace to use the systems too. Further, he called for more core commercial activities to be tied in to MPS. He believed that this in addition to developing an interoperable platform would increase the uptake en route to realising the vision of a cashless society. An interoperable platform which had just two representatives (one for the telcos and one for the banks) would enhance innovation amongst mobile developers and entrepreneurs. Read more

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