By Jeorge Wilson Kingson
The dream of marching Ghana along the path of a cashless economy appears to be crushing down and stakeholders are worried.
Currently, there are some private and public institutions who have resorted to paying the salaries of their staff through the e-zwich system only. The e-zwich card is also a major requirement for students who want to apply for loans from the Students Loan Trust Fund, among others. This implies that many more people would have no option but to hook onto the system.
But the hassle and tussle one has to go through before securing the card these days is becoming a great source of worry to many.
Following persistent complaints from the public and potential users of the system The Business Analyst visited some selected financial institutions in Accra to ascertain the veracity in the allegations of shortage in the supply of e-zwich cards by some of the banks.
For over three months now attempts to secure an e-zwich card from the various banks have been futile as almost all the banks we visited came up with one story of an excuse or the other.
At the Dzorwulo branch of the UBA we were told repeatedly and consistently that their machines were down and that it was not possible for us to get an e-zwich card. ?Our systems are down, come next week,? were the regular words of the tellers and this continued for over three months. Same story was told at the bank?s branch at Kaneshie.
At the Kingsway branch of Prudential Bank, we were told the one in charge was indisposed and that ?she may come tomorrow so you can try again or go to Apex Bank.? This excuse persistently lasted for three months and it is still the same excuse as at the time of filing this report.
At the CMB offices of Apex Bank, we were told ?we don?t do e-zwich here.? At Prudential Bank, Odorkor branch, the excuse was ?please, come next week? and it continued for three months and still counting.
At the CMB branch of the GCB Bank, we were directed to Liberty House. The Fidelity Bank at CMB says ?we don?t do e-zwich here, go to Zenith Bank.? At Zenith Bank, we were told ?the cards are finished. You can come back next week.? At Access Bank in Kaneshie, we were told ?we are not able to provide this service at this time.?
Narrating his fruitless search for ezwich without success, a furiously looking Emmanuel Kwame Tsedey, a student of the African University College of Communication (AUCC) said the system must be scrapped.
?If our banks which are to help in transacting monetary business easily, yet are themselves this deficient, then where are we heading? The future looks blurred with this cashless system agenda of government and I?ll advise them to discard it. Beyond this e-zwich challenge we are also ICT infrastructural deficient, it?s a pity,? he stated.
The General Manager in charge of Project and Business Development at the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settling Systems (GhIPSS), is however upbeat about the success of the e-zwich system. Archie Hesse, in an earlier interview said his outfit has acknowledged that the rate of individuals registering for e-zwich has gone down, but according to him, the quality has improved.
?If in the past we had 20 people going in for the Ezwich cards and only maybe three people using it, now roughly we have 15 people going in for it and all the 15 are actually using it?.
?From the transaction point of view, when it comes to salary payment, when it comes to money transfers, all the various forms of money transfer, the usage is actually increasing month-on-month and when I look at yearly statistics, there are instances where we are actually quadrupling the volume of transactions and the value of transaction,? he said.
The GhIPSS is hoping to speed up the processes of paying government employees through the Ezwich platform. Hesse says delivery channels are also being enhanced to ensure that E-zwich card holders have ready access to their funds.
He is confident the integration of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and bank switches into the national switch will facilitate the activation of ezwich services at the banks.
?Our ideal preference will be that when you?ve been paid unto your card, you actually go and shop using your card at the point of sale device, so you do not need to redraw the funds before making the purchases?, stated Archie Hesse.
To make this possible, he said the GhIPSS is working to perfect its infrastructure systems to ensure the deployment of enough point of sale devices at various market places.
The E-zwich is the brand name for the National Switch and Smart card payment system which is an innovative method for improving accessibility to banking and retail services in Ghana and has been around since 2008.?The system offers Deposit taking financial institutions a platform that enables them to interoperate.
E-zwich cardholders are able to perform banking and retail transactions at the outlets of other e-zwich financial institutions.
The original idea for which the government introduced the e-zwich payment system into the country is to improve the banking sector, and guarantee the country?s steady journey towards a cashless economy. It is to discourage the excessive use of cash as means of transacting business in Ghana.
It would be recalled how aggressively the government promoted the system in the early days of its introduction, same however cannot be said today despite the fact that the long term vision of ensuring the attainment of a cash free economy is still yet to be attained.
Source: The Business Analyst