'Cashless payments'. What I’ve just written is perhaps the most boring sentence I’ve ever written in my decade-long career as a writer. However, to Evangeline Bikorimana, a tea farmer from Gicumbi District, cashless payments have literally lifted her from a cruel circle of poverty and allowed her to enjoy her life much more.
In brief, the way it works is that this platform allows Evangeline to withdraw and deposit money directly into her Sacco (Savings and Credit Cooperative) account using her mobile phone.
This is how Evangeline feels about this cashless solution: “Before this platform, we would wake up extremely early to head to our local Sacco on payday. In fact, we would sometimes sleep in our clothes so that we could leave our homes before daybreak so that we could arrive at the Sacco before others. However, despite our best efforts, we would usually find a huge number of farmers waiting to receive their salaries. We would often have to go home and return the next day. Today that is no longer the case.”
That is the benefit of cashless payments that my friend, Fred Nkusi, talked about yesterday in an article in this newspaper titled ‘Why we need a regulatory framework for mobile money’.
However, he threw the cat among the pigeons when he warned that mobile money industry was currently unregulated and was ripe for plucking for the criminally inclined. I am happy to inform you all that Fred could have not been more wrong.
Mobile money is actually regulated by the National Bank of Rwanda. For any operator to engage in mobile money business in Rwanda, they need to first obtain a BNR license.
In fact, legal and regulatory frameworks have existed on payment services since 2010 when the Law n°03/2010 of 26/02/2010 concerning payment system was enacted.
It was then followed in 2012 by the regulation n° 06/2012 of 21/06/2012 governing payment services providers.
But wait, those two are NOT the only regulations that ensure that whoever is using mobile money payments is safe from online crooks.
Rwandan telecoms are bound by consumer protection, anti-money laundering and ‘know your customer’ guidelines as well as laws relating to electronic messages, electronic signatures and electronic transactions to name but a few.
So, the regulatory framework is in place and telecoms are adhering to them quite rigidly. But regulations cannot always protect consumers against simple human error.
If, for example, someone insists on sending money in a drunken stupor there is no regulatory mechanism invented yet that will stop them from doing so (just so you know, telecoms ask you to confirm whether you want to send a certain amount of money to a specific number before the transaction is made).
Just like we jealously guard the banknotes in our pocket (despite the fact that the police will help us out when we are pickpocketed), we also need to guard the mobile money in our handsets. As a telecom, we educate our customers to protect their Tigo Cash PIN numbers and inform them how to detect fraudsters.
So, in the immortal words of FD Roosevelt, there is nothing to fear except fear itself. Mobile payments are not only safe but convenient as well. When I go shopping these days, I don’t have to carry any banknotes. All I have to do is pull out my Visa card and swipe away.
Which is all good and well. However, when I want to pay for Cashpower or a Hello Food delivery my trusty Visa card is useless. Ditto to sending money to someone in the village. That’s when the mobile payments come to the fore. I have never been disappointed yet and neither will you.
The writer is the Corporate Communications and Government Relations Manager, Tigo Rwanda