2 February 2013

Rwanda: Citizens Yet to Fully Embrace E-Payment

Photo: In2EastAfrica
Rwandan Franc.

Kigali — Antoine Nuwabiizi stopped by a small supermarket in Nyamirambo, a famous suburb of Kigali city to buy a few things and when he presented his Visa card for 'swiping' the young cashier looked at him in total bewilderment.

After a few minutes of explanations, he was told the supermarket was not yet equipped to allow payment by cards of any type so he was to pay using cash. Since he didn't have enough hard cash on him to clear for the goods, Nuwabiizi had to abandon the items and drove into town at Nakumatt where he could shop with his card.

The e-payment innovations that enable people to deal without physical cash seems to be the new trend unfortunately many a Rwandan still prefer moving with their money bags (wallets and handbags) instead of a card. "I just feel better with physical money," says Eric Rubona a high school teacher.

Rwanda is plotting for a 'cashless economy' where people use less of physical cash and more of these new innovations but it will take a bit of time as it did for mobile money to gain people's full trust.

At Rwanda revenue authority for instance, tax payers have been forced to adapt to e-filing by the institution and many have now gotten used to dealing with the tax collector without physically having to meet with RRA officials, explains Drocella Mukashyaka the head of tax-payer services.Embracing these new innovations will soon provide the cutting-edge against competition in Rwanda's service sector which is growing in double digits ahead of other sectors.

Recently, R-switch an E-Payment in Rwanda introduced 'Smart Cash' platform which will allow Rwandans to make e-payments both domestically and within the region.

The new innovations according to Konde Bugingo, R-switch CEO, will add flexibility with ATM card owners able to obtain services at any time within the country on any ATM machines and other point of service (POS) devices.

"No other E-Payment Company has made this kind of commitment of providing a home grown Regional e-payment Services working with the banking industry," said Konde.

When Nuwabiizi drove to Nakumatt, he knew he would use his VISA card to pay for whatever item.

Big shopping centers such as Nakumatt have already adopted these new age payment methods which are very popular especially with tourists many of whom don't move with cash but credit cards.Steven Makau is the manager of Nakumatt Supermarket in Kigali says the e-payment style is picking up compared to yesteryears where in a day's transaction, there wouldn't be any made electronically.

But even then, it's common among foreigners and international buyers rather than among local shoppers.

Nakumatt is already working with three banks that are enabling e-payment services for anyone with an account with any of them. These include Bank of Kigali, Eco Bank and Equity Bank.

For anyone with a VISA card /ATM card and with some money on the account, you can shop using the card at Nakumatt and no extra charges are deducted from all locally issued cards, explains Makau.

For international shoppers (mostly Visa card users from abroad or out of Rwanda) are charged a small percentage for every transaction using the card.

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