Business News Mon, 30 Jun 2014

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Increased access for e-zwich cards

Holders of e-zwich card will find it a lot easier to use their biometric smart card, following the roll-out of a number of initiatives including Automated Teller Machines (ATM), hybrid Point of Sale (PoS) terminals and the offer of e-zwich services at every branch of a bank.

The use of e-zwich cards is anticipated to go up significantly, as cocoa farmers will also be brought on board. Currently, the Student Loan Scheme disburses money onto the cards of beneficiaries while National Service allowances are also paid onto the card -- besides its use for payment of wages and commissions by some private companies. Additionally, in order to curb the incidence of ghost-names, workers on government payroll beginning from the Greater Accra Region will soon be paid on their e-zwich cards.

The anticipated increase will need a lot of outlets to offer e-zwich services, so that cardholders can easily access their money.

Speaking in an interview, the Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) Archie Hesse said work is seriously on-going to ensure easy access to e-zwich services. He said the existing ATMs will be made e-zwich-compliant by installing fingerprint readers on them. He mentioned that conversion of the ATMs has begun with Ecobank ATMs. “If you go to the Ecobank ATM at the University of Ghana, you will see the fingerprint reader, and we will have more of such throughout the country,” he indicated. He said GhIPSS is working with at least four banks to convert all their ATMs to be e-zwich compliant.

In addition to the ATMs, he said GhIPSS is rolling-out PoS terminals that accept both e-zwich and local ATM cards. Over 100 of such PoSs have been deployed at key outlets including shopping centres, restaurants, fuel stations, pharmacies and hotels. This, he said, will enable e-zwich and other local cardholders visiting these centres to pay directly with their cards.

Mr. Hesse also said, through discussions, the Bank of Ghana has also directed all Universal Banks, Rural and Community Banks as well Savings and Loans Companies to ensure that all of their branches offer e-zwich services from the end of June. He explained that those who want to take cash from their e-zwich will have the option to go to ATMs or use POSs at banking halls, while those who want to shop directly off their cards can use PoSs that will be available in the various shopping outlets.He believes that with the variety of options, access to e-zwich services will significantly improve.

In order to ensure that these PoSs and ATMs are functional all the time, Mr. Hesse said a team has been put together to constantly monitor and ensure that they are working well. He also indicated plans to train and outsource the monitoring and servicing of the PoSs to private local IT firms, a process that he noted is already underway.

Mr. Hesse said the payment of cocoa farmers and public sector workers will ensure increased usage of cards in Ghana and reduce the overreliance on cash for transactions. He said Ghanaians must develop the culture of paying with cards, adding that GhIPSS will make sure operational challenges are reduced to the barest minimum so that the switch from cash to card will be smooth and swift.

Meanwhile, GhIPSS continues to roll out its policy of introducing cards to the younger population so they can acquire the habit and grow with it. The recent enrolment and issue of e-zwich cards to second-cycle institutions, undertaken just about a week ago, covered 1,641 students from Accra Technical Training Centre and St John’s Grammar School, both in Accra, and Apegusu in the Eastern Region.

Source: B&FT

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