West Blue Consulting in partnership with Ecobank Ghana has introduced the Ghana National Single Window Ecobank CashXPress Card to speed up the payments of duties and charges by exporters and importers at the ports.
The card which is a reloaded prepaid card offers a new, convenient and secure way to make trade payments on the Ghana National Single Window (GNSW) platform.
The Minister of Finance, Seth Terkper who performed the launch in Accra on Monday said: "Today's launching of the GNSW Ecobank CashXPress Card compliments government's effort in simplifying and reducing the transaction cost of doing business in Ghana".
The card according to him will allow traders to pay customs duty payments online 24/7, and pay other import and export related payments on Ghana's Trading Hub for instance Import Declaration Form (IDF).
Mr Terkper was quick to add that the card would also be used to make everyday payments which are not related to trade. "Holders of the card can use it to buy groceries and other products online", he stated.
The GNSW CashXPress card is available at all Ecobank Ghana branches, and West Blue office and its ezones located at the Kotoka International Airport and Tema Harbour .The card is also available on the e-payment platform of the Ghana's Trading Hub.
Mr Terkper noted: "From an operational perspective, the cashxpress card offers shippers and other stakeholders easy, flexible and convenient payment options, provides secured transactions, increases transparency, and eliminates delays associated with bank confirmations, among others".
"All of these advantages will greatly help to enhance Ghana's trade competitiveness which will in turn generate economic growth and employment"
This reform programme according to Mr Terkper was in line with the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) revenue mobilisation programme and the government's Public Finance Management programme which aim to see a joint up approach for all service delivery units under a broad e-government framework.
The platform will be integrated with the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS) for Controller and Accountant General's Department (CAGD) payments for better auditing and reconciliation management, the minister told players of the maritime industry at the launch.
These payments Mr Terkper mentioned include the e-fuel and e-travel initiatives which the CAGD was piloting. In the case of the later it will avoid the handing of excess physical cash by public servants on domestic and overseas travel assignments.
"Upcoming activities in the e-payment domain in line with the GNSW Strategic Plan include the introduction of trade related payment points including duty payments with all banks. This we believe will significantly reduce the time and cost of administering trade payments, whilst presenting a flexible and competitive environment for our traders and financial institutions", he stressed.
Mr Terkper was happy to say that the recent positive results in terms of trade efficiency and competitiveness have been achieved in parallel with an actual increase in government trade related tools and revenues.
"This demonstrates that we can simultaneously have a better facilitated trade environment for the business community and strengthened government revenues- a clear a win-win scenario for the whole country", he emphasised.
The minister noted that; "results attained since the introduction of the GNSW are proof that the GNSW Programme is already having a direct and positive impact on the competitiveness of the Ghanaian economy".
Mr Tekper commended the technical partner of the GNSW programme- West Blue Consulting, CAGD and Ecobank on the launch of this innovative payment card and believes that "we will see many similar positive results in the coming years".
The Commissioner General of the GRA, Mr George Blankson added that with the introduction of the card "we are taking trade facilitation and ease of doing business to a new level".
Touching on e-payment solution status update, the Chief Executive Officer of West Blue Consulting, Madam Valentina Mintah explained that the channels of collection of the card include: multicard Point of Sales (POS) terminals; mobile money collection services; e-commerce platforms; in-branch and agent collections; and interbank collection services.
She further explained that these modes of payments were complimented by an electronic wallet where traders using any of the payment modes described could credit their online wallet to enable payments for products and services available on the GNSW platform, aiding effective cash flow management for the trader.
Madam Mintah noted: "Since its introduction earlier this year, the impact of our e-payment platform on the Import Declaration Form (IDF) has resulted in an increase in revenue collections for the Ministry of Trade and Industry".
"In addition, the efficacy with which the platform facilitates collections across multiple banks and channels has brought a lot of value to all the stakeholders, public and private in the areas of reduction in time and cost of making payments and government efficient administration".
Madam Mintah was confident that the introduction of new payment points beyond IDFs in the coming months would assure further efficiencies in the supply chain.
She therefore called for the support and collaboration from the trading public and technical service providers to ensure a successful roll out of the GNSW cashxpress cards in the country.
Presenting an overview of the cashxpress card, the Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana, Mr Dan Sackey sees the launch of the card as a major stride as the country poised to improve the ease of doing business in the West African second largest economy.
He stated: "We hope that this will impact positively on the ease of doing business rankings of the country". Ghana currently placed at position 108 out of 190 countries surveyed in the Overall Ranking of World Bank's Ease of Doing Business report released recently - an improvement from 111 in the previous report.
In the sub-Saharan Africa sub-region, Ghana ranked in the Top 10, coming 9th, out of the 47 countries ranked in the region.
Mr Sackey used the occasion to assure the trading community and the general public that the card is secured and Personal Identification Number (TIN) protected.