The Bank of Ghana sees the potential of its digital currency, the eCedi, to enhance financial inclusion in rural areas, says First Deputy Governor, Dr. Maxwell Opoku-Afari.
Opoku-Afari was speaking at Payments Canada Summit held in Toronto where he noted that the eCedi can create a transaction history that commercial players can utilize, with consent from users, to start offering financial products and services.
The Deputy Governor also reminded listeners that the eCedi is a currency first and foremost, not a wallet for a channel and ‘that must have a human-centered design; that you must design for your country’s context; and must be aware that the process is resource intensive.’
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Dr. Opoku-Afari also reminded listeners about Ghana’s current economic challenges and its engagement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Still, he emphasized that despite these difficulties, the development of the eCedi remains a pursuit for the Bank of Ghana.
In the design phase of the eCedi project, the Bank of Ghana opted to conduct pilots in three specific locations:
- Sefwi Asafo
In Accra and Tarkwa, various use cases for online payments were explored by examining how the eCedi could facilitate digital transactions in those areas. On the other hand, Sefwi Asafo focused on an offline experiment, testing the applicability of the eCedi in situations where internet connectivity may be limited or unreliable.
“And, while Ghana has seen the percentage of people with formal bank accounts soar in the last decade, nearly a third of the population is still unbanked,” said Dr. Opoku-Afari.
Moreover, 84% of Ghanaians have stable electricity but just 53% have internet access.
The apex bank has also opted for a token-based, rather than an account-based system – minting the eCedi and then distributing it via commercial players such mobile money provider, banks and PSPs. According to the Deputy Governor, this approach, rather than the use of a central bank app, was chosen because the ‘goal was to enable the ecosystem.’
During the online pilot programs conducted in Accra and Tarkwa, participants utilized existing banking applications to test various transaction scenarios. These scenarios included peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers, wallet-to-bank transactions, as well as merchant and bill payments.
In contrast, the offline experiment saw the eCedi distributed via a smart card and concentrated on merchant payments and was run purely by the Bank without commercial players.
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