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Ghana: Cellulant aims to introduce digital payments for utility and other services

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Monday, 30 August 2021 14:52

Cellulant Ghana country manager Eric Kortey. Photo supplied.

Cellulant, a company focused on digital payments, secured a payment services provider (PSP) license in Ghana in April. It wants to partner with the government, banks and insurers to enable digital payments for utility and other services, Eric Kortey, Cellulant country manager for Ghana, tells The Africa Report.

The PSP license can contribute to the government’s aim of creating a digital economy, and Cellulant is “engaging with the government” on utility payments, Kortey says in Accra.

Discussions are also underway with transport providers who want a digital means of accepting payment from passengers and paying drivers, he adds.

Ghana is seeking to achieve increased digitisation of public services and has introduced online passport renewals, vehicle registration platforms, a paperless port system and digital platforms for the courts system as well as the tourism ministry.

The government aims for all Ghanaians to have access to affordable digital financial services by 2023.

The PSP license means that Cellulant can onboard local and global payments businesses with a presence in Ghana. “This will push financial inclusion forward,” Kortey says.

  • Cellulant, which says that 12% of all African digital payments take place on its platform, is using its license to roll out Tingg, a digital-payments platform for businesses and consumers.
  • Since the grant of the license, the company has been able to negotiate better ‘aggregation’ terms under which bulk products are delivered from a telecoms provider to consumers.
  • “It has given us that leverage,” Kortey says. “We are better placed to negotiate with industry players,” including the central bank.

Cellulant aims to use the license to extend its partnership with MTN Ghana. Kortey says 80% of Ghanaian merchants using mobile payments are with MTN. Direct connectivity with MTN gives us “a wide range of options”.

  • Under the PSP license, MTN has agreed to be Cellulant’s bulk provider of SMS services, Kortey says. The project needs some technical integration but will go live at the start of the fourth quarter of this year.
  • Also in the pipeline is a proximity in-store payments service, which will allow merchants to accept payment from any mobile network. Cellulant is also piloting a real-time settlement system. Both projects are set for implementation in September.

Mobile-money tax

As of January, 38.9% of Ghanaians aged 15 and older had a mobile-money account in Ghana, yet physical cash remains the dominant payment method.

Critics have said that Ghana’s plan to raise taxes on mobile-money agents risks restricting the growth of mobile money. Implementation of a new 10% withholding tax on cash-out transactions, to be collected by telecoms companies from mobile-money agents, was pushed back to 1 September from the original start date of 1 July after industry resistance.

  • The government needs to raise revenue as a result of Covid-19 and saw tax as a way to do it, Kortey says.
  • However, the government “should engage all stakeholders,” before implementation, he argues. “Some industry players are still opposed. Further engagement is needed.”

Kortey remains positive about Ghana’s plans to start piloting an electronic currency, fully backed by the cedi, in September.

The e-cedi, intended as a complement to physical cash, is “definitely positive” for the digital economy and will allow Cellulant to re-engage with some of its merchants and open up possible new partnerships, Kortey says. “The plan is perfect for the digital space.”

Bottom line

Cellulant is aiming to build digital payments into the fabric of everyday life in Ghana.

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