Title: Ghana rolls out plan to grow usage of debit cards
Dated: March 19 2014
ACCRA — Ghana will introduce devices that will triple the number of people who can use debit cards to pay for purchases to draw more business through banks in West Africa’s second-largest economy.
About 2.3-million people would be able to swipe their local debit or e-zwich card on 2,500 point of sale devices in Accra by May, said Archie Hesse, CEO of state-owned Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems. Currently, customers can only use them to withdraw money from the issuer’s automated teller machines (ATMs).
The 1-million Visa cards issued by 14 banks including Barclays Bank and Standard Bank can be used to withdraw money from any ATM and pay for purchases through about 400 devices at mostly hotels and restaurants. The government was in talks with Visa and MasterCard to include those cards on the new machines, Mr Hesse said.
"Use of cards will let funds reside in the bank other than under people’s pillows, in their pockets or wallets," Mr Hesse said last week. "Banks can lend these funds to businesses to expand operations and the government can borrow to invest in projects."
Ghana wants to lure more people to banks to promote lending and saving in a country where less than 10% of its 26-million citizens have access to banking services. Increased debit card usage would draw more cash through banks, boosting gross domestic product and providing more data for policy makers, Mr Hesse said.
Thirteen of the nation’s 27 banks issued their own local cards to customers, Mr Hesse said. Local banks including Ghana Commercial Bank have issued about 1.5-million cards that can only be used at the issuer’s ATMs.
About 800,000 people have e-zwich smart cards that can be filled with cash to make purchases. Customers do not need bank accounts to load money onto e-zwich.
The clearinghouse will hand out another 2,500 devices outside the capital by the end of the year. Ghana needed 60,000 to 70,000 machines to enable cards to be used as a primary means of payment throughout the country, Mr Hesse said. MasterCard users would be able to make payments through the new devices by the end of July. There were about 5,000 MasterCard customers.
Mr Hesse said t he government was negotiating a similar agreement with Visa. Cards "would save the nation millions of dollars spent in printing new currency and help to provide data for policy making".