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.
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.
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.
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.
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.