Experts in the financial technology (Fintech) space have urged the government to see electronic (e) transactions and services as a gold mine for credible data to increase revenue generation and aid development planning.
They said the increasing consumption of E-services led to the processing and storage of data on spending, revenue generation by firms, location and general business activities of both consumers and companies that were necessary for proper tax policy formulation and national planning.
Given that efforts to expand the tax net and finance development had been hampered by the lack of credible data on the consumption and revenue generation patterns of businesses and the populace, the specialists in digital strategy and execution, technology planning and law said e-services could become the game changer when used well.
Speaking on how to utilise digital transactions to improve the economy at the Graphic Business/Stanbic Bank Breakfast Meeting on e-services on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, the experts, however, warned that care should be taken not to burden the sector with taxes, as that could undermine its growth and mute its benefits to the economy.
The experts who articulated the views included the Country Manager of Visa Ghana, Adoma Peprah, who chaired the event; a digital strategist, Fred Frimpong; a financial technology professional, Francis Appiah, and a Lecturer at the School of Law, University of Ghana, William Kofi Owusu Demitia, all panellists.
They unanimously called for deliberate efforts and policies by the government and key stakeholders to build a public trust in digital and e-services, noting that increased trust in e-commerce, comprising online trading and payments, was needed to encourage the use of such services and reap the benefits for the economy.
The experts said while the country was inundated with various E-services platforms and products, usage among the populace was low, as many people were still sceptical about those services.
They said the increasing cases of fraud with online transactions and of people paying for products only to be presented with different ones festered the public’s distrust of E-services.
They blamed the development on the lack of a refund policy, a clear-cut consumer protection law, as well as low financial literacy, noting that such challenges discouraged the expansive adoption of E-services by the populace.
Consequently, they urged the government to partner the private sector to develop and sustain trust in the usage of digital services to help reap the needed benefits.
The event, which was on the theme: ‘Integration of e-services into our economy: Implications for economic growth and quality of life,’ brought together experts in the Fintech industry to deliberate on how to maximise the gains of E-services.
The breakfast meeting was the first in the year in a series of thought leadership programmes organised by the Graphic Business, a first read on business and the economy, and Stanbic Bank Ghana Plc, a top tier bank.
Referencing data from Statistica, an online data distributor, Ms Peprah of Visa Ghana disclosed that e-commerce in the country generated about $638 million in revenue in 2021, with estimates showing that the amount would rise by 19 per cent to $759 million this year.
She said revenue from the sector was also projected to peak at $1.3 billion by 2025, while the average revenue per user was projected to grow from $85 in 2021 to $116 in 2025.
She added that in spite of the availability of electronic channels to start and complete transactions, data showed that most e-commerce payments were done offline, largely due to trust issues.
Ms Peprah said the data showed that more than 95 per cent of e-transactions were done offline.
She also blamed poor customer service, late and non-delivery of orders, as well as delivery of low quality and/or damaged products as some of the challenges that bred mistrust.
“The main reason is there is a high level of fraud, so there are trust issues. What happens is people will start online and end the process offline. Also, people prefer cash-on-delivery to online payment because of trust issues. People are asking: if the product is not the right one, how do I get my money back?” she said.
“Similarly, most of the platforms do not have refund or return policies, and because of this, most Ghanaians prefer to start the process online and complete it offline,” Ms Peprah said.
Mr Frimpong, who is the Head of Payments at Jumia, said Ms Peprah’s observations were accurate, as they reflected his experiences at the company.
He, however, noted that the country needed to be deliberate to help increase the usage.
“We have to be very deliberate in making sure that the many systems that we have put in place are being used. If there are policies on refund and returns that allow customers to get products they do not like returned, then it will encourage usage.
“If we have a system by which I can sit in the Western North, order a product, get it delivered to me without the delivery guy calling me up and down, and if I do not pick the item is returned, then we can be sure of increased usage,” he added.
Mr Frimpong also indicated that the country needed a consumer protection system that worked, such that if consumers did not like the products they bought, they could be returned.
He said until such efforts were made, usage of e-services would be low, stunting its impact on the economy.