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WAMZ PAYMENTS SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

 

 

Background of WAMZ Payment System Development

The payments system development in the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ), as part of the economic and monetary integration programme of zone has been the fulfillment of some of the following primary objectives:

  • Eliminate, as far as possible, risks from payments, clearing and settlement systems;
  • Speed up the exchange and settlement of funds and securities to levels that will effectively eliminate float;
  • Improve convenience, service, and security for users. The general trend is to migrate from cash and paper-based payment instruments to a state of high usage of electronic modes of payment;
  • Bring efficiency to government receipts and payments and leverage them for the financial deepening of the economies of the WAMZ Member States;
  • Improve the WAMZ National Central Banks’ (NCBs) monetary management capabilities by reducing float and supplying timely accurate information on the flow of funds;
  • Assess the legal framework that will support the modernization of payments system within the WAMZ member countries; and draw up criteria to integrate and attain harmonized interoperability to facilitate cross border payments.

To achieve these objectives, WAMI in 2004 embarked on the modernization of the WAMZ Payments system infrastructure with a stock take of the state of payments system in the WAMZ Member States and preparation of a strategy document. The process resulted in the setting up of  e WAMZ Payment System Development Project in The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone which was funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB).The project was successfully completed in 2016. The primary objective of the Project was to develop and automate   the payment system infrastructure of the four countries to the level already attained by Ghana and Nigeria. The payment system components implemented under the Project were:

Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) System

The RTGS systems implemented in the four beneficiary countries take the form of a multi-currency programming, primarily providing for the legacy currencies of the beneficiary countries and factoring the Eco (Future Currency of the WAMZ) into the system. Upon attainment of the requisite macroeconomic criteria or upon reaching the decision point to introduce the Eco, the RTGS systems of the four beneficiary countries would be switched over to the Eco currency. The value transfer platform of all the six Member States was based on the SWIFT FIN Copy service.

Scriptless Securities Settlement (SSS) System

The SSS systems built as part of the Project is to facilitate dematerialization of Government debt instruments and provide a more efficient settlement system. They interfaced with the RTGS systems in the four countries and provide the media for Delivery versus Payment in real time systems.

Automated Clearing House System

The Automated Clearing House introduced into the financial system of the beneficiary countries the possibility of effecting Customer to Customer transfer in the shortest possible period. It removes the concept of float and therefore improves the health of the financial system. The settlement of Customer to Customer transfer could take place within 24 hours, through Direct Credits and Direct Debits.

Automated Cheque Processing System

The establishment of the Truncated Cheque Clearing systems in the four beneficiary countries migrated cheque clearing from the purely manual environment with the long clearing cycles to the shortest settlement period (T+1). The traditional twenty-one days clearing cycle was reduced to a maximum of two-day cycle nation-wide and the immense float completely eroded. With the successful completion of the Project in 2016, all the WAMZ Member States are now using similar technology for cheque clearing, the interlinking of the systems upon the establishment of the West African Central Bank would be seamless.

Core Banking Application (CBA) for the Central Banks

The Temenos T24 Core Banking Application implemented for the NCBs of the four beneficiary WAMZ member countries provide robust banking application software that interface seamlessly with the payment system components.

 

Besides the payment system components, the Project included an infrastructure upgrade in the form of Local Area Network (LAN) reconfiguration, Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) with Internet and Information Technology (IT) Room Security and Energy. The MAN & Internet provides a dedicated inter-bank communication backbone system for the operation of the RTGS, SSS, ACH, and ACP systems. The project also built a Disaster Recovery sites in each of the four beneficiary Member States at a safe distance that does not share same risk of disaster with the Main Sites.

To ensure a successful implementation and delivery of the above, WAMI undertook regular inspection missions, technical meetings in the countries and regular Project Steering Committee meetings in Accra, Ghana.

 

 

POSITIVE IMPACT OF THE WAMZ PAYMENTS SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

The successful completion of the WAMZ Payments System Development Project significantly achieved its objective of upgrading the payments system infrastructure of The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to a substantial level already attained by Ghana and Nigeria.

The Gambia was the first to go-live in 2012 with all the components of the WAMZ Payments System Development Project with all the twelve commercial banks operating in the country as participants in the RTGS. The Automated Clearing House and the national switch, the Gamswitch, currently has an interface with the RTGS platform and performs daily settlements of participants' wholesale and retail transactions. This has led to a gradual shift to electronic payments option as against the hitherto predominant cash economy.

In Guinea, the implementation of the WAMZ Payments System Development Project was completed in 2016 and all the components are working efficiently. The Central Bank of Guinea (BCRG) is currently working on the establishment of the National Switch with a funding from the World Bank.

All the components of the Project went live in Liberia in 2016 and are working efficiently. The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) year continued to build on the achievement of the WAMZ Payments System Development Project with the following initiatives:

  • Enactment of the The Payments System Act by the National Legislature in 2014;
  • Completion of the Payment System Rules (ACP/ACH and RTGS);
  • Payment of the Government of Liberia Taxes through the RTGS System in collaboration with the LRA and the Commercial Banks; and
  • Launching of National Shared Switch (shared switch, telco, middleware, scheme gateway) with all Commercial Bank in Liberia expected to be connected.

In Sierra Leone, the Payments System Development Project provided platform for the country to launch the digitalization of its payments system as well as the introduction of mobile money in the country. The Bank of Sierra leone (BSL) in 2016 also completed the introduction of rules and procedures for the operation of the RTGS, ACH and the CSD with a robust pricing mechanism for the use of the systems. To further enhance efficiency in the timely delivery of payment services nationwide, BSL is now working with the World Bank and the Commercial Banks for the establishment of a National Switching Company that would interconnect and make interoperable the various payments systems of all Commercial Banks and mobile Money Operators.

 

MAINTENANCE AND SUSTAINABILTY OF PAYMENTS SYSTEM PROJECTS

In line with the directive of the Convergence Council at its 42th meeting in Conakry, Republic of Guinea, in August 2019, WAMI initiated a meeting with the management of BFI, the solution provider for ACP/ACH under WAMZ Payments System Development Project in The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The objective of the meeting was to engage the solution providers on cost and sustainability of the project components which maintenance contract had expired. At one of the meetings attended by the Managing Director/CEO of BFI, WAMI was able to secure a 15% discount on Software License and 10% discount on Hardware maintenance. The discount applied to all the National Central Banks of the WAMZ Payments System Project. Following the success of the exercise and at the request of the four beneficiary NCBs, WAMI joined the NCBs in re-negotiating the renewal of the ten-years license of Core Banking Application (CBA) with Temenos and Inlaks. The negotiation led to 8.25% discount in the ten-year license fee for the four countries and favorable uniform annual maintenance fees. The joint efforts also achieved the effective transfer of all WAMI hitherto held licenses to the four NCBS.  And finally, WAMI initiated similar engagements with the management of BFI and CMA to re-negotiate license fees and transfer all licensing and maintenance contracts to the NCBs.

 

Way Forward

WAMI will continue to undertake periodic post go-live review of the project and prepare a comprehensive report on the project outcomes and how to best utilize the opportunity offered by the success of the project to achieve cross-border payments and settlement in the local currencies of the WAMZ. The mission will also serve as a platform to interface with the Ghana Interbank Payments and Settlement System (GhIPSS), Nigeria Interbank Payment and Settlement System (NIBSS) and other Financial Technology (FinTechs) in Ghana and Nigeria in our continued efforts at bridging the technological gaps between the two Member States and others.

 

WAMI/AFREXIMBANK’S COLLABORATION ON THE PAN AFRICAN PAYMENT AND SETTLEMENT SYSTEM (PAPSS)

 

Introduction.

Following the successful completion in 2016 of the WAMZ Payments System Development Project in The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the evolution of payments system in the WAMZ continued to be driven largely by innovations in technology. The objectives of the Project included building the requisite infrastructure to modernize the payments system in four WAMZ Member States and bring them to levels attained in Ghana and Nigeria. The completion of the project enabled these countries to benefit immensely from the current trend in electronic payments system and opened opportunities for the interlinkage of the payments system infrastructure of the six Member States for cross border payments and settlement in national currencies. To achieve this, a project document on the interlinkage of the WAMZ Payments System was presented to the Technical Committee of the WAMZ in 2018. At the meeting, WAMI was mandated to seek private sector participation options in achieving cross border payments and settlement in the zone.

 

In line with the approval of the Convergence Council of the WAMZ at its 39th meeting in Banjul, The Gambia, for private funding of the project, the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) submitted to WAMI a roadmap document on cross border payments and settlement system, known as Pan Africa Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS).

PAPSS is the Payment System and Financial Market infrastructure which includes the payment, clearing, multilateral net settlement systems and the entity operating the arrangement. It connotes the semi-autonomous division established by the Afreximbank Board to facilitate the operational management of the payment system in a day-to-day capacity that includes the management, administration, operation, regulation, and supervision of the system, and to enable the payment system to the benefit of participants. PAPSS is designed to create a payment and settlement platform with Afreximbank as clearing and settlement agent with the participating central banks (CBs) as co-Clearing and Settlement agents.

The establishment of PAPSS is in line with Article II, 2(x) of the Establishment Agreement, and Article 5(2)(x) of the Afreximbank Charter. Afreximbank is empowered to provide support to payment arrangements aimed at expanding the international trade of African States.

The PAPSS is aimed at facilitating intra-African trade and formalizing some of the unrecorded trade due to the prevalence of informal cross-border trade in Africa. It is to provide an alternative to the current high-cost and lengthy correspondent banking relationships in facilitating trade and other economic activities among African countries, through a simple, low cost and risk-controlled payment, clearing and settlement system.

PAPSS will support payments from various schemes and systems such as Credit Transfer scheme, Debit Transfer scheme, Card scheme, e- payment (EFT) switch, securities and foreign exchange settlement systems, and mobile money operator (MMO)/Telco systems. PAPSS IPS provides a proven, interoperable and reliable solution capable of processing instant payments, deferred payment, where required and related services and settling transactions on a real time Deferred Multilateral Net Settlement basis.

PAPSS is designed to ultimately serve as Africa Central Switch to spur the growth of intra-African trade and commerce, with the active participation of central banks, financial institutions, regional economic communities, the private sector, and end users, with the aim to support the financial integration of the continent and to hasten pace of economic growth.

 

PAPSS development is expected to assist the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the African Union (AU), and Central banks to ensure that payments in inter-regional trade in Africa is done in local currencies. On the completion of PAPSS, it is expected to save Africa about $5billion in transfer cost and bring back over $40billion diverted from the continent yearly due to currency differences.

 

The system will:

  • Define a common framework for transacting, clearing, and settling cross-border transactions, including operating rules, business practices and standards, participants, participation requirements and funding schemes, among others.
  • Operate independently of domestic payment systems to leverage existing investment in the countries.
  • Provide payment transfers instantly and in local currency.

 

Objectives

  • Expansion of intra-African trade and investment flows among market participants in the region thereby enabling deeper regional economic and financial integration.
  • Reduce duration and time variability of cross-border payments across Africa.
  • Reduce foreign currency requirements for central banks and commercial banks on cross border payments.
  • Strengthen Central Banks’ oversight of cross border payment systems.
  • Improve cross border financial market operations (cross listing and trading of stocks amongst capital markets)
  • Creation of new business opportunities and employment across sub-regions and Africa as a whole.
  • Reduction of end-to-end transaction costs, operational cost for central and commercial banks as well as other payment service providers (PSPs)
  • Improved accessibility to market participants and users to cross- border transactions and other services.

 

Use Cases: PAPSS will act as a clearing switch for its participants via a centralized shared platform for cross-border instant payments. 

 

papss_cases

 

 

PAPSS Schematic Diagram

The PAPSS schematic diagram is carefully designed to ensure PAPSS operate independent of the domestic payments system architecture of the Central Banks.

 

papss_schematic_diagram

 

 

 

PAPSS Legal Instruments.

 

All the WAMZ National Central Banks have signed the four PAPSS Legal Instruments and scheme after extensive review by their experts.

The signed agreements include the following:

  1. PAPSS Central Bank Settlement Membership Agreement
  2. PAPSS Bye-Laws
  3. PAPSS Settlement Bank Agreement
  4. PAPSS Instant Credit Rules Book

 

 

Way Forward

WAMI will continue to collaborate with Afreximbank and other stakeholders post go-live to ensure PAPSS achieves the expected outcomes, increase in intra WAMZ trade and promote quoting and trading in the local currencies of the WAMZ.

 

UNIQUE BANK IDENTITY PROJECT

Following the successful completion in 2016 of the WAMZ Payments System Development Project in The Gambia, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone funded by the AfDB, the evolution of payments system in the WAMZ continued to be driven largely by innovations in technology. The completion of the project enabled the four beneficiary countries to benefit immensely from the current trend in electronic payments system. The zone has witnessed a gradual shift from the dominance of cash and cheques to the preference for electronic payments and settlement in electronic products like Automated Teller Machine (ATM), Point of Sales (POS), mobile money etc. The wave of digital transactions is gradually spreading as more innovative channels continue to be developed by FinTechs in response to the opportunity offered by the success so far recorded in the WAMZ Payments System Development Project. However, banks in most countries of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) have reported losing some of their Correspondent Banking Relationships (CBRs) which could be associated with the high business risk environment in the Zone, concerns over money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/FT) and the absence of unique bank identity. Also, it is observed that there is high degree of non-interoperability, and low coverage in most of WAMZ Member States, except Nigeria, which is a big challenge to the financial sector development and duplication of efforts and investments.

WAMI in 2019 approached the African Development Bank (AfDB) with a Project document and funding request for the implementation in the remaining Member States of the WAMZ a UBI number to protect bank customers, engender financial inclusion, reduce fraud and strengthen the financial system. The Project UBI is consistent with the financial integration objectives of the WAMZ and is an upshot of the WAMZ Payments System Development Project funded by the African Development Bank funded Project (WAMZ-PSDP) which was launched in 2008, to upgrade the payments system in The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.  The African Development Bank (AfDB) could not accommodate our request for funding the UBI project in 2020 because the 2020 African Development Fund ADF-15 prioritization exercise was undertaken within a considerably challenging context.   As the first year of the ADF-15 cycle, the release of the Performance-Based Allocation (PBA) figures faced some delays, coupled with the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in fiscal shocks that shifted national priorities away from regional integration activities. A direct result of these challenges is that the 2020 prioritization exercised registered several countries with very limited PBA commitments towards regional operations. Whilst our project was considered as potentially impactful for regional integration, due to the unavailability of PBAs for the countries involved, the Bank was unable to secure funding for the proposed Unique Bank Identity and Digital Interoperability project for the WAMZ from the 2020 Regional Operations window.

 

Way forward

As requested by AfDB, a fresh application for 2021 ADF-15 Regional Operations Envelope has been submitted to the AfDB for the UBI/Digital Interoperability Project.  

 

 

REGULATORY SANDBOX IN THE WAMZ

The speed of innovations in the financial sector in the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) demands a robust regional response in the form of a region-wide regulatory sandbox for the burgeoning financial space. Although sandboxes are widely used in different environments such as information technology (IT), their use in the financial sector is relatively recent with the launch of the first regulatory sandbox in UK in 2016. The idea came in response to the challenges posed by the advent of products and services using innovative techniques and infrastructures, specifically in what is known as financial technology (fintech). Regulatory sandboxes in the WAMZ will offer a setting in which entities can test innovative products or services, for a limited time, with a restricted number of clients, under conditions determine by the supervisor with less stringent requirements before they are offered FOR USE in the marketplace, while the supervisor monitors their operations.

 

Way Forward

Since most Member States of the WAMZ have initiated regulatory sandboxes which would further enhance the region-wide regulatory sandbox. WAMI is currently working on a way to assist Member States NCBs to seek funding or partnership for the implementation of the project.

 

OTHER AREAS OF ACTIVITIES IN THE DEPARTMENT

The Financial Integration Department (FID) accomplished key milestones relating to its work programme through its coordinating roles in the activities of the CSWAMZ, CSNBFI, WACMIC and WAMZ Payments System. Other major activities of the Department during the period, include:

  1. Contribution to the Zonal Multilateral Convergence Reports, and WAMI Annual Reports;
  2. Participation in Joint Multilateral Surveillance Missions to Member States of the WAMZ;
  3. Continuous country monitoring of the payment system development efforts and infrastructure projects in the WAMZ;
  4. Continuous collaboration with development partners such as AFRITAC West II, WAIFEM, Afrieximbank, and African Development Bank etc. on capacity building and financial sector development programmes.  
  5. Collaboration with the legal department in representing WAMI at the Legal and Institutional Issues Committee (LIIC) of the WAMZ in the completion of the Model Banking Act for Banks and Financial Holding Companies for the WAMZ and the Model Act for Non-Bank Financial Institution and Non-Bank Financial Holding Companies for the WAMZ;
  6. Publication of the study on “Assessing the feasibility of using Pension Funds of Member States of the WAMZ for infrastructural financing;
  7. Completion of a study on “harmonisation of accounting and financial reporting frameworks for financial sector in ECOWAS”; and
  8. Publication of a book on Financial Markets, Institutions and Integration in the WAMZ.

 

WAY FORWARD

FID remain committed to its core mandate of ensuring the integration of the functional financial sectors and promoting developments of payments system efforts among Member States of the WAMZ. However, the only sector yet to be captured in the WAMZ financial integration set-up remains the pension market. The Department would continue to employ its constituted structures namely, CSWAMZ, CSNBFI, WACMIC, WASRA and the payment system office to harmonise the legal, regulatory and supervisory frameworks of Member States as well as promote inclusiveness as part of the broader frame of realising the WAMZ integration agenda.