Grégoire Toussaint, EDC Principal based in Paris met with Blaise Ahouantchédé, CEO of the GIM-UEMOA, the interbank payment organisation of the West African Economic and Monetary Union.
What are the role and responsibilities of the GIM-UEMOA?
Banks in UEMOA zone, the West African Economic and Monetary Union of 8 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo), have created the GIM-UEMOA to modernise the region’s payment system under the authority of the BCEAO, Central Bank of the West African States.
Working closely with the BCEAO and banks, the GIM-UEMOA has set up an interbank platform for card payments connecting more than 128 banks and 5 million cards to ensure clearing and settlement systems in local currencies for the 8 countries of West Africa.
The GIM-UEMOA’s goal is to manage the cooperation between all entities, to develop and manage payments in the UEMOA region, including for instance interbank rules and regulations, security, architecture, technical protocols, negotiations with international card schemes, pricing and business models. Since its creation in 2003, the GIM-UEMOA has become the main technical operator to develop card payments involving all players in the payment value chain.
How do you anticipate the evolution of payments and financial inclusion in West Africa in the next 5 years?
For more than 15 years, the GIM-UEMOA has laid a solid foundation for continued growth, with strong partnerships with providers, advisory companies, legal firms, etc. Since its inception, the GIM-UEMOA has experienced a growth of between 30-40%, with more than 1 billion dollars processed in 2017. New players in the payment space such as telecom operators with mobile money or fintech, have also contributed to the development of electronic payments.
The objective in the coming years will be to focus on financial inclusion and to assist the regional Central Bank to achieve 75% of financial inclusion within the next 5 years. This is the first basic step before reaching even more promising results to develop further access to financial services such as micro-loans or savings products. This is a key aspect to include the informal economy and to significantly contribute to the development of the financial industry beyond the traditional banking sector.
Which initiatives of the GIM-UEMOA do you think will contribute to the evolution of payments in West Africa?
GIM-UEMOA’s key project to support financial inclusion is the emergence of interoperability of all electronic payments in West Africa, including mobile money. There were about 1.3 billion transactions in 2017 conducted through a mobile phone and this is an opportunity for the whole payment ecosystem to cooperate and facilitate financial inclusion.
The GIM-UEMOA has received the mandate from the BCEAO to become the main technical operator for this interoperability and to conduct this digital payment revolution. I believe that banks have the capacity to play a greater role to facilitate money transfers in partnership with all players in the payment value chain. This extended cooperation – including telcos and fintech – will definitely play in favour of consumers and merchants who will benefit from new services from the payment community.
The interoperability will drive further electronic payments, financial inclusion and the development of West African economies to provide a solid foundation for the generations to come.
What do you do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
I am 100% focused on working closely with banks and driving payments in West Africa. I am sometimes asked to provide input to governments on topics related to financial inclusion, electronic payments or cyber-security.
On a personal level, I am a big football fan, actively supporting both the teams of Senegal and France during the last football World Cup. I also enjoy walking and spending quality time with my family. GIM-UEMOA (Groupement Interbancaire Monétique de l'Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine) BCEAO (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest)