By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
President Julius Maada Bio, yesterday Wednesday May 3, officially launched the National Payment Switch. The switch is a gateway system to payment solutions in Sierra Leone.
The National Payment Switch is a technology that facilitates bulk cashless payment in the fastest possible time and also promotes financial inclusion.
Speaking at the launching ceremony, Bank Complex in Freetown, President Bio said the launching marked the start of a new era in the country’s internal banking financial services sector and links with the rest of the world, adding that it was another bold step moving forward along with the path in his government New Direction manifesto.
He said promoting inclusive economic growth is a core objective in their transformative vision for the nation and it is a vision that focuses on bringing the benefit of technological progress to all citizens in multiple sectors as fast as possible.
He said with the launch of the new payment switch, the major persistence barrier to building inclusive and diverse economy has been overcome and it is good for everyone.
He further noted that the technology helps to advance the country’s inclusive economic growth agenda by improving financial inclusion and strengthening the core role of the private sector, banking and financial services sector.
He said people in rural areas with no bank or physical financial services structures can now have access to financial services, and that rural population can now make financial transactions using electronic cash payment or other financial digital tools without enduring the time consuming and expensive trips to access financial services in the bigger towns.
President Bio said the technology encourages the rapid flow of millions of financial transactions within and across the borders in seconds through a single inter face and it provides a holistic approach to dealing with several financial transaction challenges.
He said consistence improving the nation’s financial and economic management is another priority objective of his government, noting that in Africa Sierra Leone has made a lot of progress over the past five years and the technology with lead to effective tax collection.
Minister of Finance, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura, said it is important that the country keeps fast to the global technology transformation and work towards shaping the country’s financial system to foster digital economy, noting that finance is good for growth and the investment in the modernize payment system is a major catalyst in the process.
He said the payment switch is a major milestone in the government vision and they are rebranding the financial infrastructure and that what they are doing with the introduction of the new technology.
Also speaking, Acting Bank Governor,Dr. Ibrahim Stevens said government is moving towards a digital society and the Bank of Sierra Leone is spearheading that migration especially for the financial system, technology driven financial eco system.
He said the move mark the transformational era in the financial services landscape and fullfil government commitment to inclusive economic growth.
He said the digital economy has enormous transformative potential for the country and that they were only just starting, adding that before the upgrade of the National Payment System, just over a decade ago, financial transaction in Sierra Leone was very tedious and time consuming, inconvenient, costly and risky because transactions were done manually, but with digital transformation, transactions can be done within a minute.
He said the payment system was initially dominated by banks, but with the growth of non-banks entity like payment services providers, including mobile money operators and financial technology farms significate changes had occurred in the payment eco-system.
He said the development has created access to new market, increase efficiency, cost savings, enhance security and improve customer experience, noting that the National Switch is going to improve financial inclusion.
He said ensuring to improving financial inclusion is crucial to making formal financial services such as loans, deposit and savings accounts, payment services readily available.