By Dr. Ekow Acquah (Political Communications Consult)
Following the recent lecture on the economy by the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, there have been intense discussions over the issues he raised, including counter claims over some of his pronouncements.
The Fourth Estate, a publication managed by respected journalist, Manasseh Azure Awini, has been at the forefront of reviewing Dr. Bawumia's address, and fact-checking aspects of it.
In it's fact-ckecking exercise, Manasseh's the Fourth Estate, declared as 'completely false", a claim by Dr. Bawumia that Ghana is the first country to introduce a mobile money interoperability between mobile wallets and bank accounts.
Interestingly, the false verdict by Manasseh's The Fourth Estate, has rather turned out to be completely false.
During the State of the Economy lecture last week, Vice President Bawumia said: : “I should note that Ghana is the first country in Africa and one of the few in the world to achieve this type of interoperability between bank accounts and mobile wallets.”
Contextually, Dr. Bawumia was talking about Ghana’s mobile money interoperability, which allows for payment between inter mobile wallet accounts, as well as what he stressed on; between mobile wallets and bank accounts.
However, without understanding the context, or perhaps being mischievous, the Fourth Estate, hurriedly jumped to declare Bawumia’s verdict as false, referring to a June 2020 report by GSMA, titled: tracking the journey towards mobile money interoperability: emerging evidence from six markets: Tanzania, Pakistan, Madagascar, Ghana, Jordan and Uganda.
THE FOURTH ESTATE'S CLAIM
In its bold, but mischievous declaration of Bawumia’s statement as false, the Fourth Estate wrote: "the Mobile Money Payment Interoperability is the service that allows direct and seamless transfer of funds from one mobile money wallet to another mobile money wallet across networks. It was developed by Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) with the active collaboration of the telecom industry. The first phase of the mobile money interoperability system was launched on May 10, 2018 by the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, together with the Government of Ghana, the central bank, GhIPSS and commercial banks. Six months later, on Wednesday, November 28, 2018, the second phase of the project was launched."
The Fourth Estate Continued: "however, before Ghana had contemplated this move, Tanzania was already benefiting from the usage of the mobile money interoperability system. The country was the first to launch the system in 2014 followed by Kenya in 2016 and Madagascar in 2017.
Tanzania effectively launched Account to Account interoperability to facilitate payments by mobile networks in September 2014. It followed a two-year engagement among mobile money operators.
Tanzania’s adoption of mobile money interoperability is confirmed in a GSMA report titled “Tracking the Journey Towards Mobile Money Interoperability”.
EXPOSING THE FOURTH ESTATE'S LIES
In what can be described as a a blatant lie, or at best a grand deception of its readers, the Fourth Estate, did not tell its readers the GSMA's June 2020 was talking about Account to Account interoperability in Tanzania, and not
Ghana's unique inter wallet (Account to Account or wallet to wallet) as well as wallet to bank.
Indeed the very report the Fourth Estate used to debunk Bawumia’s claim of Ghana being the first country in Africa to introduce mobile money interoperability between mobile wallets and bank accounts (alongside the wallet to wallet interoperability) actually vindicates Dr. Bawumia's claim.
In Appendix 4 of the report, titled Country Case Studies, the GSMA report, published clearly states the nature of mobile money operations in each of the six countries under review, including Tanzania.
Interestingly, Kenya was not part of the review at all, as claimed by the Fourth Estate.
In Tanzania’s review, the report was emphatic on the type of mobile money service the country was operating, and it's future vision for mobile money interoperability.
The report wrote: "In Tanzania, discussions about A2A (account to account) interoperability began in 2012 , with three key stakeholders playing a vital facilitation role: the IFC, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Tanzania. Implementation commenced following approval from the Bank of Tanzania in 2013 and A2A interoperability launched commercially in 2014. This marked the first interoperable mobile money service between Mobile Money Payments (MMPs), with Tigo, Airtel, and Zantel enabling bilateral connections for cross-net P2P (Payment to Payment) transactions. Vodacom was the last to join the agreement and connected to each MMP bilaterally.'
The questions to ask The Fourth Estate are: how does the above report on Tanzania falsify Bawumia’s assertion that Ghana is the first country in Africa to introduce mobile money interoperability between mobile wallets, as well as mobile wallets and bank accounts? How does this report on Tanzania say their interoperability included bank accounts? Why did The Fourth Estate ignore his emphasis on connectivity with bank accounts?
What is more damning to The Fourth Estate's analysis is that the final paragraph of the very report they quoted to pass a false verdict on Bawumia’s assertion, exposes them.
According to the 2020 report, New regulations in Tanzania 'requiring interoperability between MMPs and broader financial institutions, including banks, are set to transition providers to connecting centrally to the country's national Payment switch, the Tanazania Instant Payment System (TIPS) platform and is expected to launch in 2020."
As at 2020, the same document The Fourth Estate referenced, was reporting how Tanzania was preparing to advance its interoperability payments to include bank accounts, when Ghana had long launched its mobile operability with wallets in 2018, and subsequently bank accounts in 2019?
EXPOSING THE FOURTH ESTATE'S LIES ON KENYA
Eventhough the GSMA report The Fourth Estate referred to did not include Kenya, the Fourth Estate boldly claimed that Kenya also implemented Ghana's kind of interoperability in 2016, before Ghana.
This claim, by The Fourth Estate, just like Tanzania’s case is a blatant lie. Kenya's interoperability, just as Tanzania, was not as broad as Ghana's, when Ghana launched the second phase of its mobile money operability (wallets and bank accounts) in 2019.
A press release by the Central Bank of Kenya in 2018, clearly announced Kenya's success in achieving a one-sided operability with only wallet-to-wallet.
The question to The 4th Estate is: how did Kenya achieve interoperability between mobile wallets and bank accounts in 2016 (as they reported) to render Bawumia’s assertion false, when the truth is that the Kenyan Central Bank only announced the country’s mobile money interoperability (between only mobile networks) in April 2018?
The April 2018 press release by the Kenyan Central Bank (attached in the story) was emphatic in stating that Kenya's newly achieved mobile interoperability was on wallet-to-wallet, without wallet to bank accounts, as is the case in Ghana's case.
GSMA's CONFIRMATION OF GHANA'S UNIQUE MOBILE MONEY INTEROPERABILITY IN AFRICA
In The Fourth Estate's mischievous, or perhaps uninformed decision to declare Bawumia’s assertion as false, it conveniently failed to read Ghana's review in Appendix 4 of the document it unethically misinterpreted deliberately to mislead its readers.
The salient mobile money operability success factors and outcomes of each of the six countries under review were captured by the report.
Among the six leading mobile money markets reviewed, Ghana was the only African country which the report captured as having 'successful integration of banks, MMPs (mobile money payments) and the National scheme card E-Zwitch, thus confirming Bawumia’s assertion that Ghana is the first African country to implement a cross mobile money payment, or interoperability between mobile accounts and bank accounts, alongside the traditional wallet to wallet account.
Clearly, for whatever reason Manasseh's The Fourth Estate lied and schewed a comprehensive public document to declare the Vice President's claim as false.
The media have a responsibility to fact-check what leaders say, but in doing so, the media themselves, must be factual and knowledgeable in the area they are reporting.
Mobile money operability comes in different forms and it is important for The Fourth Estate in particular, to understand the difference between operability between wallet to wallet, and interoperability between mobile wallets and bank accounts.
Dr. Bawumia was absolutely right and Ghana remains the first country in Africa to introduce a unique mobile money interoperability with cross payment between wallet to wallet, and wallet to bank accounts.
Let us celebrate the success of our country, and not be too quick to run down our collective national success, especially without basis and understanding of the situation.