Switching to a Cashless Economy
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
RSwitch continues to fly the flag for Rwanda in bringing the next generation of financing and banking to a country engulfed in the possibilities of a digital revolution.
Assigned as the national e-payment switch operator in the East African nation in 2003, the Company was initially established with the vision of running Rwanda’s electronic payment system before expanding to serve as a financial interoperable solutions entity.
Driven by the Company’s SmartCash brand which enables electronic payment settlements – as well as interoperability and other financial solutions – the business remains the only fully-fledged player in a niche sector thriving under the influence of digital finance developments; both in Rwanda and for international parties looking to partner in the country.
“SmartCash is RSwitch’s local debit card scheme issued by banks in Rwanda allowing customers to make transactions across ATMs, POSs and online,” explains the Company’s Head of Commercial, Jean Claude Gaga. “Our vision is to be able to interconnect all the wireless services in the country through a solution that allows them to communicate; to find a robust solution to implement all these systems and to be able to transact with each other, both in and outside of Rwanda.
“Not only are we processing transactions but we are also supporting the different monitoring and maintenance schemes for ATMs in Rwanda as well as offering leasing and advisory services to empower our clients and to get the best return on investment.”
This remit over the past 13 years has transpired in building Rwanda’s mobile saturation to as much as 80 percent, nationwide, and – as part of RSwitch’s five-year growth plan – it is this indicator of things to come which is driving the Company’s current and future investment plans; capitalising on the mobile revolution and making processes easier across the board for an increasingly-enthused audience.
Strong indigenous brand
While international competition remains a challenge for the sole niche operator, RSwitch still strives to ensure that it is a continuously improving entity, evolving with clients’ concerns in mind.
Primarily, this revolves around two key facets in the form of price and proximity. Bringing the best contemporary services as close to as many people as possible, as affordably as possible, is just one element of a local philosophy that continues to motivate RSwitch’s efforts to this day.
“Even within the Company’s workforce, RSwitch has 96 percent local talent, and then in terms of doing business with partners, we focus mainly on local businesses and local aggregators that are supporting different terminals and facilitating different platforms,” Gaga says. “I would definitely say we are building a strong indigenous brand here at RSwitch.”
This is not to say that the skills and technologies being applied are limited domestically though. Offering modern systems either in-line with, or often ahead of, international standards is a trademark mission instilled by the Company as it keeps a close eye on the most pressing of global trends accordingly.
This inevitably strengthens RSwitch’s concerted goal to be influential on an international scale when it comes to aiding Rwandan transactions across borders, and is compounded by a complementary pool of talent comprising professionals from the surrounding region and even as far afield as South Africa.
And, as Gaga emphasises, this all culminates in a much more turnkey offering, exclusive to the Rwandan and regional audience.
“We have exclusivity across a number of aspects, not least by our SmartCash scheme,” he says. “It is a requirement where all bank terminals, by regulation, are mandated to accept SmartCash during transactions, so we’re talking about people being able to transact – using our scheme – across 350 ATM terminals and 3,000 POSs in the country alone.”
In for a boost
Such a commanding influence is impacted further by RSwitch’s strong relationship with Central Bank, linking all other banks as a consequence, and this emphasises another key facet of the Company’s rapid rise to success: its integral strategic partnerships.
“Take SmartCash for instance. The cards are issued by more than 60 percent of banks, and we have marketing partnerships with many of them, working on a B2B basis to ensure that we all drive awareness and push activation of this scheme in various locations,” Gaga says. “Considering the setup in Rwanda, the banking facilities and infrastructure is not necessarily as you’d expect elsewhere in the world so it is important to have activation campaigns where we can engage with the masses and get some of these banking services closer to their homes.”
Further engagements with regulators forms another crux of the business’s overall influence across the sector; with a special monitoring team on-hand to support partnering banks on all major issues with terminals, network stability and individual transactions.
One such partnership announced at the end of 2015 saw RSwitch team up with international payments Company, Veneka to try and further ease access to financial services among banks, mobile network operators, microfinance institutions, as well as Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), in Rwanda; epitomising the kinds of relationships that have helped evolve the country’s digital finance industry so extensively since 2003.
“We are delighted to offer a fully integrated platform to Rwanda’s financial institutions to further enable an all-inclusive financial industry. Our local and regional financial institutions are in for a boost,” RSwitch’s Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Barrientos said at the time of the announcement.
This initiative alone will help to interlink financial institutions, to create a seamless interface between banks, MFIs, and mobile network operators in Rwanda, and to ultimately allow customers to transfer or receive money across institutions.
Gaga adds: “A further exclusivity is also being seen in terms of our processing as part of international schemes and we are currently undergoing certification to print debit cards locally for the likes of Visa and Mastercard.
“Local banks are facing a major challenge in terms of the cost to print debit cards and to have their card base in the country, so RSwitch sees this as a great opportunity to add value for clients and partners.”
The constant will to grow its offering and expand the levels of service being distributed across Rwanda through new schemes such as this continue to make RSwitch a vital figurehead for the country’s financial development, and as technological progression runs parallel to such an ethos, the Company can now undoubtedly look forward to even more exciting ventures in the future.
“In just the next couple of years, we want to be able to process all transactions in-house and to be able to do this across all channels, whether it’s mobile or card-based,” Gaga concludes. “On top of that, we will be producing and issuing cards for banks on a local level.
“And then of course there is security. We are certified and responsible for ensuring that security standards are at global standards and we will progress again this year to help our clients get computerised and integrated with these schemes more effectively and safely.”