Ghana’s foray into Mobile Banking. Can India learn from Ghana’s experiences?


In December 2008, Bank of Ghana, took a major footstep towards promoting Safe ePayments. It has been 4 years since Bank of Ghana, issued the guidelines for setting up Payment Services infrastructure with emphasis on Branchless Banking.

Bank of Ghana decided to promote the ‘Many to Many model’, rather than ‘one to one’, or ‘one to many’, models.

In the ‘Many to Many Mode’, a minimum of three Financial Institutions ( Banks and Deposit taking Financial Institutions ) should team up and submit the proposal to Bank of Ghana.

The FI’s can act alone or tie-up with a system integrators like Mobile Network Operators (MNO’s). The idea was that the FI’s own the customers, be responsible for Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Identification guidelines.

Any switch or payment system platform set up by banks or banks in conjunction with service providers for branchless banking, must be interoperable with the ezwich platform. The ezwich platform too was set up in 2008. ezwich is the brand name for the common platform (the National Switch – maintained by Bank of Ghana) that links the payment systems of all banks, savings and loans companies and rural banks in Ghana.

Over the last 4 years, the experience has been a mixed success. One of the main reasons for the average success of Ghana’s branchless banking can be attributed to the ‘many to many’, model.

During the last four years, three significant mobile money services emerged – Airtel Money, MTN Mobile Money and Tigo Cash. Each mobile money service had 3 to 10 banks as partners.

In an ideal situation, the development costs and the running costs were to be shared between the member banks and the MNO. However, as multiple banks were involved, no single bank was willing to take the lead, and adopt a customer-friendly approach.  The MNO too could not approach Bank of Ghana, for any issue and all correspondence had to be routed through the banker’s consortium.

Wherever there is a group of human beings, the ego problems crop in. Many MNO’s privately expressed that they were wasting an incredible amount of time and energy trying to manage and cajole multiple reluctant bank partners.

Recognizing  that the original vision of the 2008 branchless guidelines were yet to be achieved, Bank of Ghana, has started to  re-engage with  the entire range of market players. This time, Bank of Ghana has also requested MNOs to be part of the dialogue around the regulatory framework. This step has been welcomed by the private sector in Ghana and it has responded very positively to the overtures of the Central Bank and the prospects of a more flexible regulatory environment.

The mode of transmission was the USSD.  The USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) has inbuilt   encryption and “no store just forward” facility for performing secure transactions.

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