BSL to launch National Payment Switch

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Acting Bank Governor at Bank of Sierra Leone (M) making the pronouncement of the launching

By Yusufu S. Bangura

Bank of Sierra Leone is set to launch the National Payment Switch which will ease money transactions and move the country closer to achieving the objective of building a cashless economy.

The official launch will be on Saturday 29th April 2023 at the Bank of Sierra Leone recreation complex, Kington in Freetown. 

This announcement was made on Wednesday 19th April, at the Sam Bangura Building in Freetown during a press conference.

Speaking to pressmen, the Acting Bank Governor at Bank of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ibrahim L. Stevens said the launching of the payment switch is the dawn of a new and a defining era in the national financial services sector making the attainment of a critical milestone in the economic growth agenda of President Bio.

Dr. Stevens said the switch is a platform that facilitates interconnection and interoperability between payment channels of various players in the financial landscape and the players include commercial banks, microfinance institutions, mobile money operators and a host of Fin Techs.

Giving brief background of the project, Stevens said the national payment switch has a long history in the Bank of Sierra Leone going as far back in 2011.

He said when he first came to the Bank of Sierra Leone in 2008, his job was to help developing the national financial sector development strategy, and part of the strategy was the National Switch.

However, in 2019 the World Bank support the government with 12 million United State Dollars for the implementation of the project which comprises  the national payment switch, national financial  literacy and a Rural connectivity project which they are in the process of implementing them.

According to him “all debit and credit cards, currently being used would be used on the National Switch and once it goes live, it will ensure direct transactions between accounts of different banks, Direct transactions between wallets of different mobile money operators and bank accounts and Settlement of funds for transactions across schemes, between schemes and banks,” he said.

Acting Bank Governor said the switch will also make provision for buyers and sellers of financial products and services to make transactions across various channels such as automatic teller machines (ATM), points of sale equipment (POS) among others.

He added that the switch will also route all transactions irrespective of the cards used to a central national payment switch for settlement at the bank of Sierra Leone.

Also giving benefits of the switch, Dr. Stevens said the main benefit of the National Payment Switch is related to ease and convenient of processing transactions without involving cash as well as providing data on financial transaction on a timely basis.

He said the National Revenue Authority NRA will benefit from the switch through increase automated revenue collection, adding that banks and other payment system will also benefit through the use of share network and thereby reducing cost, increase security transactions among others.

He continued that the National Payment Switch will be owned and managed by the Bank of Sierra Leone which will go live on Saturday 29th April 2023 and will be operationalized in three (3) phases.

He added that first phase is card switching, which involves ATMs and POSs interoperability and during this phase, one can conduct transactions on any ATM or POS regardless of the bank card or bank account one has.

He continued that phase two is instant payment, which will interoperate Mobile Money Operators (MNOS), other fin tech and bank accounts such that customers can make instant payments using any of these facilities from any location. He further said phase three is international payments.

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