E-Zwich: Ghana’s National Payment Platform/ATM network

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Something new is coming to town this April 2008. E-zwich.

What is E-Zwich? E-Zwich is the brand name for the National Switch, under the new Universal Electronic Payments (UEPS) technology which would ensure that all commercial banks, rural banks and savings and loans institutions in Ghana implemented a common payment platform and biometric Smartcard.

To make this technology really feasible, the Bank of Ghana [BOG] (Ghana’s central bank) has issued a directive that all banks linked their ATMs & Point of Sale (POS) terminals to the National Switch, the E-ZWICH by March 31, 2008. Banks with existing switches are expected to upgrade them to make them compatible with the National Switch by July 1, 2008 while banks without switches/ATMs / POS terminals are expected to integrate their payment terminals directly into the National Switch or through a E-ZWICH compatible switch.

The advantages of this new national payment platform are enormous.  A customer using a credit/debit/ATM card issued by a rural bank, can access cash from just about any ATM in any city or town in Ghana, and use it to effect payment for goods and services at stores equipped with POS terminals. A city dweller will also be able to access funds via ATMs in the deepest parts of Ghana (where ATMs exist).

Hitherto, other payment platforms existed in Ghana, with VISA being the leading payment platform/ATM network.

VISA

Barclays Bank, CAL Bank, Ecobank, SG-SSB, Stanbic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank (4 out of the 6 listed are leading banks in Ghana) all have their ATMs hooked to the international VISA platform respectively, as well as issue VISA cards. As of today, customers of any of these banks can use the ATMs of any of the other banks.

Etranzact

This payment platform currently links only UBA Ghana Limited and Zenith Bank Ghana. I am aware that UBA has Etranzact POS terminals in their main branch but I am not very sure if all their ATMs/cards are linked to Etranzact.

If you asked me, I’d say frankly, Etranzact has no chance of competing with the new E-Zwich unless they can add useful and functional value-added-services that will not be available on E-Zwich.

Mastercard

Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) – the bank with the largest/widest branches in Ghana – announced it would be issuing Mastercard products last year, as well as upgrade its ATMs nationwide to link with the international Mastercard payment platform. Mastercard credit/debit card holders from anywhere around the world will be able to use their cards on GCB ATMs in Ghana and GCB customers will be able to use their cards on Mastercard ATMs around the world.

From the information I got on Mastercard’s website, some 5 ATMs distributed across Accra, Tema, Kumasi and Takoradi are currently linked to the international Mastercard platform. I do not have an independent confirmation of this.

Mondex (defunct?)

I am not sure if this platform is still functional but at a time, it linked Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) and Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) ATMs.

Bottomline? E-Zwich will not kill the other current payment platforms in Ghana. It would amongst other things significantly improve the network connectivity of ATMs in the west African country and bring about much more convenience for end-users.

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the comment on my blog. Frankly I had jsut been debating with myself whether E-zwich was referring to the UEPS platform or a brand to compete with VISA (the predominant brand in Ghana). Your article clears the isssue up and I think
    E-zwich will be the eventual winner since VISA never really showed commitment to actively promoting VISA Horizon paltform.

    I just hope the adoption and take up rate happens quickly enough because i just can’t want to explore teh e-commerce opportunities in Ghana.

  2. Etranzact Cardholders can use their cards in Ghana and Nigeria

    A news item on Vanguard’s website indicates that Nigerian-issued Etranzact cards can be used on Etranzact-linked ATMs in Ghana and vice-versa:
    A very big one is the possibility of Nigerian and Ghanaian eTranzact cardholders to withdraw cash from …

  3. i think this all help us.those who do not have a bank account.i hope is this will be also avialable for the age of 14 and above or less than 14 if it will be secured

  4. In fact we students can’t wait to see E-Zwich come into operation, but we hope the charges on it will not be that exorbitant so that we all can afford it.God bless the minds behind such a great discovery.

  5. It is amazing how fast our financial sector is developing. Equally disgusting is how the real sector of the economy is struggling to stand up to the rapidly changing and developing finanacial sector. A more radical approach on policies will be needed to translate these growth in the finanacial sector with the real sector else unemployment and inflation will always hit us in the face as we are seeing now.

  6. I would like disagree with Mr Ajao about E-zwich/ Etranzact comparison.
    Etranzact has already exhibited useful and functional value-added-services that will not be available on E-Zwich. These include amongst others…………..real online payments that are currently being utilized on websites such as http://www.mykayaonline .com (an online grocery shopping and errand delivery service within the Accra-Tema metropolis)

    With the rate at which Ghana is developing, there is going to be a huge demand for local online payment systems and i believe Etranzact is in a good position to carve a niche for themselves.Does anyone disagree?

  7. As part of the security measures, what should i do if i am attacked by an armed robber with the machine and he forces me to slot my card into his machine to load all my money unto his machine at a gunpoint?
    who qualifies to own one of the machines?

  8. In fact the e-zwich is taking too long a time to come into operation i thought you said it was going to come around April or May there about why is it not still out yet.

  9. Freeman, e-zwich was officially launched by President Kufuor, weeks ago and is already in use in several stores here in Accra and other parts of the country. It is not yet as widespread as it should be, but it is getting popular by the day.

  10. E-zwich needs to be embraced by all.Fears being attributed to the biblical 666 and all , is rather unfortunate. We as Ghanaians must embrace technology and i think this new development in E-banking needs to be applauded. To answer Fred De-GRaft Adjei`s question, let me begin by saying our lives are always more worth protecting than any amount of money. if u attacked by an armed robber, just give the money out. the best part of this is that, the Point of Sale (POS)device, is given to clients of the bank, and if you know the information required by teh bank to open such an account, you would not even worry about how to get your money back…it can always be traced.
    E-zwich has come to stay and help all, let us give it a chance.

  11. i stumbled across this article while searching for an online payments in Ghana. We are bringing some e-commerce to Ghana and will appreciate if anyone could feed me with already existing e-commerce where online payment is being made or just the website of the e-payment gateways in Ghana so we can liaise with them on how to go about it. E-Zwich will be wonderful i believe. Up Ghana.

  12. The concept is a brilliant one; no one can deny that. E-zwich is based on biometric authentication system meaning is security is very robust; no one can use the card apart from the one whose finger prints have been scanned and tied to the card. Unlike chip and pin where a cardholder can send someone with the card bu telling him/ her their pin number, you can’t send someone with your e-zwich card to transact on your behalf. Your finger print is always needed.

    The problem e-zwich is currently facing is the usual poor preparation and bad implementaion that bedvils very good thing our policy makers do in Africa.

    Among the problems are:

    1. the Point of sale (POS) devices connect to the host via GPRS, a wireless connectivity that is so unreliable and weak. both merchants and bank tellers are frustrated when they need to both download and upload vital information to and from the host. Uploading and downloading information at the beginning of day and end of day is so crucial as both the host and the POSs need to be updated to have the current information available. Most transactions are offline so this is very very important. One wonders why GhIPPs, the subsidiary of Bank of Ghana formed primarily to manage this product, did not foresee these problems.

    2. The point of sale devices are so user-unfriendly. You currently can’t check your credit (connectivity units) on the POS. This has been a bane for mostly merchants as they often run out of units sometimes in the middle of a transaction without knowing. Before you can confirm what the problem is you need to take your GPRS SIM and put it into your mobile phone and check whether you have units. And to top up you need to take your SIM from the POS and put it into your mobile phone. This is frustrating many a merchant who are enthusiastic about accepting e-zwich as an alternative payment method.

    3. Currently each POS is configured (restricted) to a specific network. This means a POS issued to a merchant can work with a SIM card from one network operator only. So if your chip is configured to MTN, for instance, and you are not lucky and MTN reception is weak in your area, you can’t connect to the host and you cannot put a SIM card from any other network provider. Your only option is to send it to your bank for the Bank to send it to GhIPPS before they re-configure it to another network. This trial and error thing is also frustrating POS users (bank tellers and merchants). I wonder why GhIPPs wouldn’t just open the POSs up to accept SIM cards from any network or simply show the banks how to re-configure the POSs. I just wonder.

    I got to rush out of here. So later. All said, e-zwich is a brilliant idea and can work if those in charge would just sit up.

  13. Thank you Kwasi Boakye-Akyeampong, for throwing more light on E-Zwich terminals. Are you a merchant yourself? Or a banker?

    I have completely stayed away from E-Zwich for a different set of reasons.

    1. The cards are NOT numbered. This makes using them via the Internet now or in future, impossible. The biometric thing aside, it is still possible for them to have built the E-Zwich thing in a future-proof way i.e. enabling web merchants to accept payment made via E-Zwich, online. InterSwitch and Etrazact (both in Nigeria) can be used offline with a PIN, but they can be used via the Internet too via a web API!

    2. The E-Zwich attempts to duplicate all the functions of a regular bank account and more. I don’t see the use for it as my bank accounts and Visa cards serve all my needs. Thank you very much.

  14. One advantage that the EZWICH has over other platforms is the biometrics it incorporates (The fingerprint aspect) No other platform has it.
    Its disadvantage is that most ATMs don’t have the fingerprint reading technology.
    Cheers

  15. pls sir can you give me details on how if one wants to start and run a cash card company where by the card can be used in any atm machine,exmpl like etranzact what will one need to start such business.

  16. i believe everybody with the knowledge of the E-Zwich embrace the usage.but why a few companies and enterprises are using it?is it the cost of the device or majority do not patronize the use.as i’m have a project topic on the impact of E-Zwich usage on business and it looks like very few are using the device.i wish we can subsidized for the cost to be affordable for majority.

  17. PLEASE I WOULD LIKE U TO SEND TO ME ALL THE READILY E ZWICH ATM LOCATIONS IN GHANA .NO MATTER WHICH REGION IS I NEED ALL THE LOCATIONS.AND I WANT TO KNOW WHY SOME BANK ALWAYS COMPLAIN OF NETWORK PROBLEMS.

  18. Please sir, I would like to know how one can download money onto his e-zwich card (say, money paid into e-zwich account by parents) using the e-zwich ATM.

  19. man this ezwich thing is it safe and i doubt if its the best source among all atm issuers like visa and co can it be cashed out on any atm machines huh? or only ezwich atm pro?

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