Ghana wants to ensure its digital currency would function on a widely popular payment platform run by mobile-phone service providers.
The use of the eCedi, through which the Bank of Ghana seeks to improve financial inclusion, needs to be as intuitive as possible, the banking regulator said in a report released Tuesday. That means it needs to work well with mobile money, which has become an indispensable part of how people pay for goods and services using their phones.
“It is important that the eCedi is implemented to complement and enhance the existing payment systems,” the report said. “The various existing electronic and mobile payment solutions will therefore have to be interoperable with the eCedi to enable their utilization of the eCedi.”
The report didn’t specify how this would be accomplished. While mobile-money transfers have a cost, eCedi transactions are meant to be free of additional charges.
Africa’s top gold producer was among 14 countries that were piloting central bank digital currencies as of Dec. 14, according to the Atlantic Council. Another nine, including Nigeria, have fully launched a virtual tender. Globally, more central banks are testing digital forms of their currencies, allowing for faster and cheaper money transfers across borders.
A move by Ghana’s government to introduce a 1.75% levy on digital transactions including mobile money has faced pushback from opposition lawmakers who say it would curb financial inclusion in a country where more than 40% of adults do not have a bank account.
“The eCedi ecosystem can further boost financial inclusion by potentially curing existing pain points,” including delayed settlements of mobile-money operations made outside a service provider’s network, Bank of Ghana said in its report.
Mobile money, first introduced in Ghana in 2009 by the local unit of Johannesburg-based MTN Group, soared to 82.9 billion cedis ($11.5 billion) in December from 67.7 billion cedis a year earlier. In addition to cash transfers, users of the platform can also get loans and buy insurance, without needing to open a bank account.
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