While QR CODE payment systems have been implemented in many countries (especially in Asia), very few countries have successfully implemented a Universal QR CODE. With this launch, which took place on Wednesday, 25th March, 2020, Ghana becomes the first country in Africa, and the third in the world (after Singapore and India) to launch a Universal QR Code.
Launched online due to the vagaries of the coronavirus pandemic, and under the auspices of the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPPS), a subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana, the QR Code and Proxy Pay systems are designed to make secure, convenient and low-cost financial service available to the vast majority of people, and to solve the pain points of traditional finance institutions.
“The Universal QR CODE will make it possible for all merchants, service providers and institutions to receive payments from bank accounts, ezwich accounts, mobile money wallets or internationally issued visa or MasterCards instantly” Vice President Bawumia stated at the launch, adding,
“Any merchant can have a universal QR CODE: e.g. chop bars, food vendors, barbers, carpenters or masons, musicians, shoe shine boys, khebab or ‘Kofi brokeman’ sellers, market traders, trotros, taxis, churches, mosques, schools, funeral committees, wedding organisers etc. Basically, any business.”
The launch of the Code, which takes away the need to handle cash for transactions, could not have come at a better time, Vice President Bawumia indicated, as the world battles with the deadly coronavirus pandemic Covid 19, which is partly spread through contact with an infected person.
“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, economic activity must go on even with social distancing. People must buy and pay for goods and services like food and medicines to exist.
“The science says that there is a risk of transmission from every item that our hands touch. In a cash dominant economy such as ours, the risk inherent in the transmission of the coronavirus through bank notes is something we should be concerned about.
“This means that once the use of cash diminishes, the risk of the spread of the coronavirus through banknotes will also diminish.
“It is therefore important that we do everything we can to expedite the wholesale use of electronic payment channels. It is now clear that electronic payments also have health benefits” he emphasized.
Vice President Bawumia explained that the Universal QR CODE will bring about interoperability across all telcos and across all banks and between banks and telcos.
“So when you go to a merchant with a Universal QR CODE, as long as you have a bank account or a mobile money account from any financial institution, fintech or telco, you will be able to pay the merchant regardless of which bank, rural bank, savings and loan, telco or fintech has acquired the merchant.”
The Vice President stressed: “With the Universal QR CODE, Ghana has been provided with the vehicle to make all payments in the economy digital. Any owner of a phone, whether it is a smart phone or a “yam” or feature phone can use the Universal QR CODE to make or receive payments.”
Shedding more light on the Proxy Pay system, Vice President Bawumia explained that every Bank Account will be given a phone number to be a proxy for the Bank account number for individuals or a chosen Alias for companies.
“So just like making payments to individual bank accounts, payments can be done through the phone number, similar to mobile money. So you can register an Alias, and have all payments made into your account. No need to memorise account numbers. I’m sure the churches and other large organisations will be delighted with it.”
Urging the nation to embrace the use of electronic payments, Vice President Bawumia lauded the introduction of the Universal QR Code and Proxy Pay as a key plank in making Ghana a cash-lite society, and urged every adult to get a bank account or a mobile money account immediately.
“This QR Code and Proxy Pay is a game changer. For most merchants, this means little or no cash will be kept in the shops, taxis, buses, on the person, etc. so armed robbery and petty crime will decline. It is important that every merchant or service provider takes steps to get a universal QR CODE from their bank, telco or a fintech as soon as possible.
“If we all do this, we can transition Ghana into a near cashless economy in a very short period of time.”