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Smart cash cards steady in Rwanda

15 April 2013, 13:40

Kigali - The use of smart cash cards in Rwanda is on a steady rise since they were introduced in October last year because most clients are finding them convenient and safe to use.

Konde Bugingo, the chief executive officer of RSwitch, the firm behind this innovation says that the locally made cards enable clients to use their normal ATM cards to withdraw from any ATM machine regardless of their respective bank and also purchase goods and services.

“Bank clients have been using their ATM cards to only withdraw money from the machines. But now they are able to use the smart cards for a variety of services including paying for their daily expenses,” Bugingo told CAJ.

RSwitch is Rwanda’s national electronic payment system dealing with electronic payment systems such as Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and debit cards.

The company, formerly SIMTEL also offers solutions on electronic payment services.

As of end last year, RSwitch had issued over 300 000 ATM cards and stationed over 250 ATM machines countrywide. Close to 500 Points of Sale (POS) are already operational.

There are 11 commercial banks in the country and RSwitch is managing the inter-operable bank system which controls all automated ATM money transactions. RSwitch plans to go regional in the near future.

“We are currently branding those cards, with a logo that clients will be looking for. Once they are on the market, they will only be looking for the point of sale with the logo that matches the one on their card, and will be able to purchase goods and services from that place,” he said.

He said that the initiative is driven by the desire for a “cash free world” where Rwandans do not have to carry wads of cash.

When it comes into effect, RSwitch’s target is to make the cards accessible at regional points of sale before going international.

The company is currently negotiating with neighboring countries to facilitate the regional deals.

It has already established links with Paynet of Kenya, to enable the Rwandan system to link with other users.

“It is a big challenge for banks to get financial services to the under-served and move to a cash-less society. The good thing with Rwanda is the government’s commitment and policy framework that are enabling the cash-less economy drive to be more feasible here than in other countries,” said RSwitch chairman Jyrki Koskelo.

Koskelo adds that currently costs are very high but the facilitator has to get a common denominator to integrate services in order to bring the costs down.

The central bank welcomed the smart cash cards initiative during its launch last October as yet another technological innovation to facilitate both banking and retail businesses to thrive on in the future.

“It is a very positive development because electronic payment service is one the most important gateways to financial inclusion,” said RSwitch operations director general John Bosco Sebabi in a telephone phone interview.

“Having a cashless economy will increase liquidity in the banks, meaning that banks will have more to lend out to the public. The initiative will also attract more people into the banking industry,” he added.

The National Bank of Rwanda statistics indicate that a total of 330 185 credit and debit cards are currently in circulation.

As Bugingo noted, it will enable a traveler for instance using Rwandair to pay for their tickets online as it has been the case while using internationally accepted cards.

“The new brand will soon be included in the choices of online payments for a couple of companies, Rwandair being one of them,” said Bugingo.

- CAJ News


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