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Embrace E-Payments or be swallowed by the growing service sector
By Khen Amooti

On a hot afternoon, Africa Jesse, a presenter on radio Flash signed out from his daily afternoon program. He was starving and without delay headed right to a restaurant to settle his appetite.

Almost an hour later, it was time to pay for the meal and that’s when he realized he had left the wallet at the radio station, he quickly recovered from his brief panic explaining his dilemma to the attendant before offering to pay her using the mobile banking service on his phone. Unfortunately, it couldn’t work as the woman refused insisting on cash which was delivered later after Jesse called a colleague at the station.

It’s amazing how many service providers continue to stick to old fashioned ways of doing business despite the fast and furious dynamism in the sector. Mobile banking is one of the many e-payment services that banks are offering to make life easy for Rwandans unfortunately, many are still stuck to their medieval lifestyles.

During last year’s annual media dialogue, a presenter told media proprietors that, “if you are going to remain old fashioned then you won’t survive the dynamism of the modern media.” The same could be said of the service providers. Those who fail to adapt to the new financial innovations could be suffocated instead of growing with the sector. The then Rwanda Central Bank governor, Claver Gatete says, “We are moving with trends in ICT and that means adapting to and aligning our systems with new innovations,” he remarked.

But it’s not all lost. These innovations are new and with time people will get used to them, observed Clement Asiimwe who works with a local micro-finance. There are various e-payment options available on the market from mobile money, to VISA cards to mobile banking to mention but a few.Recently, R-switch an E-Payment in Rwanda introduced ‘Smart Cash’ platform which will allow Rwandans to effect e-payments both domestically and within the region. The new innovations according to Konde Bugingo, R-switch CEO, will add flexibility with ATM card owners able to obtain services at any time within the country on any ATM machines and other point of service (POS) devices.

“No other E-Payment Company has made this kind of commitment of providing a home grown Regional e-payments Services working with the banking industry,” said Konde. Three banks have already partnered with Nakumatt to enable clients to use e-payments and these include Bank of Kigali, Equity Bank and Eco Bank. At Nakumatt, transactions by locally issued Visa cards are not charged but a small fee per transaction is deducted by the corresponding bank for foreign issued cards.

Mobile money services seem to have at least taken root. MTN, the pioneers of the service announcing in November last year that transactions of worth $138million had been recorded since the launch of the service.

Karim Rwahirwa is a photographer and instead of making the long trip to Kampala to buy photo albums, he makes a shorter journey to Nyabugogo where he sends his dealer cash via mobile money and he waits for the products to be delivered on the bus the next day. “I save not only money but also time,” says Rwahirwa.

Fantastique is one of the trending food joints in Kigali receiving a minimum of 600 clients per day. It’s affordable, air conditioned, classy and conveniently located in the city centre and has wireless internet. Unfortunately, you can’t use your Visa card or mobile money or pay through your mobile bank. They also don’t accept dollars, only francs.

Many who have reservations about these new innovations point to the risk of losing money yet both the central bank and service providers who use those innovations say there’s little room for risks. “There could be disturbances in network connectivity as the Visa machines are connected directly to the banks but we don’t get that kind of complaints of loss of money,” explained Nakumatt’s Makau.

 

k.agutamba@gmail.com

 

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