The Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has launched the first mobile money payments interoperability system in Ghana.

This follows a challenge issued by the Vice President last year to the Bank of Ghana, the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), the Telcos and financial institutions to ensure that mobile money platforms were interoperable to make banking services more accessible to the large unbanked population, estimated to be about 70%.

Interoperability is the ability for customers to undertake money transfers between two accounts at different mobile money companies or to transfer money between mobile money accounts and bank accounts.

Speaking at the launch, the Vice President commended the “hardworking Ghanaians and Ghanaian institutions” whose efforts had resulted in a platform that provides “a financial transactions engine that is versatile, efficient, robust, and enhances patronage.”

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“It is a historic day for Ghana. A very big deal. We thank God for this day…This singular achievement reinforces President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s belief that with the right conditions and leadership, there is nothing we cannot achieve as a people.”

The launch of mobile money payment interoperability system is expected to largely eliminate the difficulties associated with traditional banking services, such as the difficulty in opening bank accounts, the high costs associated with maintaining a bank account relative to customers’ income levels, the need to have basic literacy, administration and record keeping abilities and English-language capacity to operate a bank account, and the sheer intimidating nature of banking halls.

For example, customers who have mobile money accounts with say, MTN can easily transfer or receive money from other networks such as Airtel-Tigo or Vodafone.

Furthermore, mobile customers can move money from their mobile money accounts to bank accounts without any hassle, freeing up funds locked up in the telco sector.

As well, from the bank side customers can move money from their bank account(s) to mobile money accounts.

According to Fintech experts, this will make Ghana one of the global leaders in the interoperability payments space.

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Phase Two of the interoperability platform will complete the Financial Inclusion Triangle by allowing the movement of monies between and among Telcos, banks, and e-zwich accounts in a seamless manner - and the flow is back-to-back.

When phase 2 is completed, customers will be able to pull monies from bank accounts to their mobile money accounts. The e-zwich integration is ongoing, and the central bank has instructed all Banks to complete the integration that allows customers to pull monies from bank accounts to their mobile money accounts by July 15 this year.

Vice President Bawumia challenged the financial institutions, the Telcos, and the Fintechs to find very innovative ways of turning mobile phones and the mobile money platform into vehicles of economic emancipation for the many players in the huge informal sector. He also challenged the stakeholders to extend the reach of mobile money interoperability beyond the shore of Ghana.

“From here our next focus is to venture into the cross-border arena so that there will be an effective and efficient payment system to support sub-regional and indeed intra African trade. I know there are smart ICT firms and people in Ghana, and I know you can do it.”