Ghanaian universal QR code set to accelerate e-payments

By on 23/07/2019 | Updated on 04/02/2022
Costs peanuts: the QR code system should make it easier for small businesses, like this Accra market trader, to accept cashless payments. (Image courtesy: Ekow Bansah via Pexels).

Ghana has become the latest country to commit to rolling out a universal QR code, as the country’s government seeks to accelerate the take-up of e-payments.

The move was announced by the West African country’s vice-president, Mahamudu Bawumia, earlier this month at an event in capital, Accra.

Bawumia billed the commitment as “the next level of the government’s digitalisation agenda”. The country aims to introduce the universal QR code in the fourth quarter of this year.

Business benefits

QR (or ‘Quick Response’) codes – which comprise squares of black and white blocks – can be scanned by smartphones, and the aim is to make it easier for businesses to accept electronic payments. This reduces the need for merchants to buy dedicated hardware and eases financial management, supporting small business growth.

Of Ghana’s 29m-strong population, about two thirds – above the average of 44% in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a 2017 report by the GSMA (GSM Association) – have mobile phone subscriptions.

“This year, there’s going to be a remarkable introduction into Ghana of a universal QR code for payments,” said Bawumia, speaking at the closing ceremony of the Diaspora Celebration & Homecoming Summit 2019, a four-day event.  

“This will help us move further into the cashless direction because there will be no longer any need for merchants to have point-of-sale devices, with the QR code platform. All they need is a mobile-phone and even a [more basic] ‘yam phone’ will work,” said Bawumia, an economist and banker by background.

Global trend

In announcing the move, Ghana is following in the footsteps of countries ranging from Singapore to Saudi Arabia.

Singapore announced its Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR) almost a year ago as the country sought to simplify its e-payments landscape. In May, it was reported that Saudi Arabia was looking to launch a QR-based national e-payments system. Spearheading the push is the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), working alongside nine banks and three fintech companies.

India was even quicker out of the blocks: the country launched its Bharat QR Code, billed as ‘the world’s first interoperable QR code acceptance solution’, in 2017.

But the continent of Africa is seen as a mobile-payments pioneer, led by success stories such as the M-Pesa service.

Dangers lurk

Although governments are lining up to simplify their QR code landscapes, dangers lurk, with QR codes seen as being vulnerable to security risks.

China – another booming market for mobile payments – has seen problems with fraudsters embedding viruses in codes in order to access users’ personal data.

In a bid to make QR code payments safer, the country’s government last year introduced a rule capping the amount that people can spend on a ‘static’ code.

About Ian Hall

Ian is editor of Global Government Fintech a sister publication to Global Government Forum. Ian also writes for media including City AM and #DisruptionBanking. He is former UK director for the pan-European media network Euractiv (2011-2018), editor of Public Affairs News (2007-2011) and news editor of PR Week (2000-2007). He was shortlisted for ‘Editor of the Year’ at the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards in 2010. He began his career in Bulgaria at English-language weekly the Sofia Echo. Ian has an MA in Urban and Regional Change in Europe and a BA in Economics, both from Durham University.

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