Great! Bawumia launches Mobile Money Interoperability; now you can simply transfer money from one network to the other....

Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia has launched the first phase of mobile money interoperability system.

Dr Bawumia said this first step “would make Ghana one of the global leaders in the interoperability payments space.”

It is hoped that the mobile money interoperability, which will be managed by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), will enhance financial inclusion as the country’s payment system is formalised to make electronic payments easier.

This interoperability will eliminate the complexities associated with transfers across the various mobile money networks in Ghana and also reduce the cost of initiating transactions across networks as customers will no longer need the services of a third-party payment provider.

This phase of the interoperability will also allow mobile customers to move money from their mobile money accounts to bank accounts without and vice versa.

Speaking at the launch of the platform, Dr Bawumia said the mobile revolution presented a significant opportunity to ensure financial inclusion and 70% of the bankable population.

“Today, we have in excess of 37 million connected mobile phones in Ghana, and that means a huge number of people can be brought into the financial space just by using mobile phones. These mobile phones serve as vehicles that can be used to mobilise the millions of cedis held outside the banking sector,” he said.

But the Vice President remarked that “banks and the telcos are operating in silos,” hence the need for the interoperability between the telcos for example.

The effective implementation and utilisation of this interoperability would make Ghana a cash-lite economy and Dr Bawumia said this “will not only bring about efficiency and convenience but will also save this country lots of money that we spend in maintaining currency notes.”

“I therefore fully support the call for us to go beyond using mobile money for cash-in, cash-out, and more importantly, use it at merchant points, use it for bulk payments, bill payments etc. With the ongoing e-governance projects, our public sector institutions should be ready to accept electronic payments to give meaning to the various efforts at introducing different electronic payment channels.”

Dr Bawumia further added that the government had “two more aspects of interoperability that we have to complete in the next couple of months, the second phase.

Initial ‘killer’ deal

In January 2017, the issue of mobile money interoperability came to the fore when telecom operators kicked against moves by the central bank to impose on them a third-party company to implement the interoperability.

The Bank of Ghana (BoG) is said to have contracted Sibton Switch Systems to act as the switch for the cross-network mobile money transactions, with additional cost implications for both consumers and the telcos.

The company was given a GHc 4.6 billion contract for a project.

It was later discovered that the company’s GHc 4.6 billion price tag was the most expensive among the companies that bid for the project.

According to the tender documents seen by Citi News while the Sibton Switch Systems’ bid for amounted to GHc 4.6 billion, two bids in the contract amounted to GHc 14 million and GHc 5.4 million from Vals Intel Limited and Mericom Solutions Limited respectively.

The company argued that the BoG, which regulates the mobile money operations of the telcos, will however not be funding any part of the tender as it is planning to build, operate and own the system.

The Sibtons Switch deal later however abandoned after the dissatisfaction it caused among stakeholders and industry players.

The Vice President Bawumia later disclosed that the new interoperability system would cost the country less than $4 million after the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems took charge of the project.