Thursday last week, March 26, was a landmark day in Ghana’s transformation from a cash driven economy into a cash lite one, with the launch of GhQR, a national platform for e-commerce which eliminates the need for prohibitively expensive point of sales machines, thus making it a viable payments platform for even the smallest sized merchants including table top traders. The platform is being facilitated by Ghana Interbank Payments and Settlements Systems, the wholly owned subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana, established to promote, design and deploy electronic payments platforms and facilitate their widespread use.
The new platform is coming at a most opportune time, since the advent of the coronavirus outbreak in Ghana has made physical contact dangerous, thus making e-commerce more useful than ever before. Although the QR code system still requires such physical interaction between merchant and buyer, the latter’s need to acquire physical cash to consummate transactions is eliminated. Crucially, the customer does not pay a fee for using the platform, which is a major advantage over the use of mobile money for transactions; fees payable for using MoMo has discouraged its use for consummating the purchase of goods and services by many customers, especially for small sized transactions.
QR stands for quick response. The code is made up of black and white squares which represent certain pieces of information that can be instantly read using a smartphone camera. It basically works in the same way as a barcode at a supermarket.
This enables merchants to receive payments for goods sold instantly. Customers simply scan the QR code displayed by the merchant with their phones or dial a short code and this enables them to pay for the goods purchased from their bank account or mobile money wallet by entering the amount to be paid and approving payment. Both the customer and the merchant receive transaction notification.
Merchants can be registered through their bank or mobile wallet provider, who will issue them with the GhQR sticker/stand, which must be visibly displayed, along with the Merchant ID, at the merchant’s business location. The fee for being taken on as a GhQR merchant is negotiable between the merchant and his/her bank or mobile wallet provider.
Actually, the QR code system of e-commerce has been used in Ghana since 2017, when it was introduced by Ecobank Ghana. However, instead of other banks signing up to Ecobank’s platform, many preferred to establish their own, thus creating a major problem since the various platforms were not interoperable.
This convinced GhIPSS, with the cooperation of the various banks, to establish a national interoperable QR code platform, usable by customers and merchants no matter which bank – or mobile money operator for that matter – that they use.
Speaking at the launch of the GhQR platform, Bank of Ghana Governor, Dr Ernest Addison noted that: “Broadly, the universal QR code and the Proxy Pay solutions have the potential to become game changers by supporting merchants to accept payments form customers of different financial institutions and non-bank entities. These solutions would also speed up digitization of payments to distributors, wholesalers, suppliers as well as encourage users and merchants to accept and use electronic payments. This will provide a further boost to financial inclusiveness through the digitization agenda.”
He further noted that the key component of inclusivity and adoption of electronic payment options is public confidence, which requires a well- coordinated effort by all stakeholders in the payments eco-system towards intense public education campaigns, focusing on the convenience of going “cashlite” and the ease with which such electronic payments can support routine daily transactions.