Ghana To Boost Debit Card Users, Debut Point of Sale Devices

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Ghana Currency.previewGhana 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 will be able to swipe their local debit or e-zwich card on 2,500 point of sale devices in Accra by May, Archie Hesse, chief executive officer of Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems, said. Currently, the customers can only use them to withdraw money from the issuer’s automated teller machines.

The 1 million Visa Inc. cards issued by 14 banks including Barclays Bank Plc (BARC) and Standard Bank Group Ltd. can be used to withdraw money from any ATM and pay for purchases through about 400 devices at mostly hotels and restaurants. The government is in talks with Visa and MasterCard Inc. to include those cards on the new machines, Hesse said.

“Use of cards will let funds reside in the bank other than under people’s pillows, in their pockets or wallets,” Hesse said in an interview on March 14. “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 percent of its 26 million citizens have access to banking services. Increased debit card usage will draw more cash through banks, boosting gross domestic product and providing more data for policy makers, Hesse said.

Low Usage

Fourteen of the nation’s 27 banks issue Visa debit cards, while the rest issue their own local cards to customers, Hesse said. Local banks including Ghana Commercial Bank Ltd. 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 don’t 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. MasterCard users will be able to make payments through the new devices by the end of July, Hesse said. There are about 5,000 local MasterCard customers. The government is negotiating a similar agreement with Visa, he said.

Cards “would save the nation millions of dollars spent in printing new currency and help to provide data for policy making,” Hesse said.