The Changing Face of Mobile Money in Ghana

In June, Ghana’s central bank launched GhanaPay, a mobile money wallet for savings and loans companies and banks, including rural and community banks.

Developed through a collaboration between local banks and the country’s central bank, the Bank of Ghana (BoG), the new platform is expected to distinguish itself from prior mobile money solutions in the country, which have been advanced by mobile network operators (MNOs).

Read more: Bank of Ghana Unveils GhanaPay Mobile Wallet

Unlike other countries like Nigeria, where mobile money operators need a banking license, in Ghana, MNOs initially took the lead in the mobile money boom and currently have the lion’s share of the market for mobile money services, with MTN and Vodafone being the most popular providers in the country.

Considering the dominance of these MNOs, the launch of GhanaPay looks like a move to firm up banks’ presence in the provision of Ghana’s mobile money services, signaling a shift away from cooperation to a more competitive stance.

But why would Ghanaians make the transition to GhanaPay?

For starters, GhanaPay is free to use. This alone is an attractive proposition, as existing MNO mobile money wallets typically charge fees to make money. Which transactions are charged and by how much varies between providers, but charges can be as high as 3% of the transaction value.

What’s more, since May, mobile money transactions in Ghana have been subject to an unpopular 1.5% transaction tax known as eLevy, which makes a zero-fee mobile money solution a more attractive alternative to users.

Related: ‘eLevy’ Causes Mobile Money Concerns in Ghana

Secondly, banks can offer a greater range of financial services than MNOs. With the new GhanaPay wallet, banks now have more options when it comes to providing loans and other credit services.

Finally, GhanaPay has the potential to bring mobile money to areas of the economy that have traditionally relied on other payment methods. For example, it provides a direct mobile money interface between banks and account holders, making mobile payments a viable option for business-to-business (B2B) transactions that require moving funds from one bank account to the other.

GhanaPay and eCedi

Like many countries around the world, Ghana is piloting a central bank digital currency (CBDC), the eCedi, to streamline payments and improve financial inclusion.

If and when the eCedi goes live, the new currency is expected to integrate into the existing mobile money ecosystem.

“It is important that the eCedi is implemented to complement and enhance the existing payment systems,” the country’s central bank said in a March report, adding that “the various existing electronic and mobile payment solutions will therefore have to be interoperable with the eCedi to enable their use of the eCedi.”

See also: Ghana’s Central Bank Wants Digital Currency Available on Mobile Apps

Where exactly GhanaPay would fit in this equation isn’t exactly clear yet, but considering the central bank’s involvement in the platform, GhanaPay compatibility will likely be a key priority as the West African nation develops its own CBDC.

Read more: Emerging Markets See Stablecoins as Viable Alternative to Bitcoin

The eCedi project and GhanaPay both place an emphasis on free transactions, an example of how the two technologies could be combined to bring zero-fee payments to Ghana’s mobile money system.

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