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Harmonisation of the existing payments system infrastructure across ECOWAS

West Africa Monetary Agency
Context

As the ECOWAS region works towards attaining a single currency and establishing the Central Bank of West Africa (CBWA), there is a need for an integrated, regional digital payments system which is cost-effective and fast.  The ECOWAS Payment Commission recommended the setup of an instant retail payments system and Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system that would enhance regional integration and support cross border trade. This payments system would leverage current initiatives implemented by the African Development Bank (AfDB), such as the BCEAO interoperability project, which aims to support the implementation of the Digital Financial Services (DFS) interoperability platform across the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

WAMA has been mandated by the ECOWAS Commission to establish the regional payment and settlement system in close collaboration with relevant institutions. This project builds on a technical feasibility report that was commissioned in 2013 and validated by ECOWAS, member central banks and other stakeholders. This report highlighted the role of payments systems harmonisation for deeper regional integration. A subsequent updated report commissioned by World Bank (2021-2022) also underscored the importance of payments systems in integrating Africa economies.

Objectives

To provide technical assistance to the payments systems harmonisation project to enable business and technical requirements scoping of the proposed payments systems, strengthening of the governance structure, project management and support peer learning visits.

The technical assistance aims to:

  1. Support the development of detailed functional and technical specifications; business rules and procedures for the regional instant payment system and real-time gross settlement systems (RTGS);
  2. Facilitate project governance setup, including coordination of the two ECOWAS working committees; i) the technology committee and ii) the rules/operations committee
  3. Facilitate and coordinate the framework for the public/private partnerships engagements on the project
  4. Develop a comprehensive action plan for the execution of the project and supporting the bid evaluation processes for vendor solutions

The technical assistance is aligned to complimentary work of the World Bank.

Outcomes

Collaborative technical assistance from ADFI, the African Development Bank and the World Bank will provide a solid roadmap, detailed implementation plan and cost structure to guide the investment needed in the technical and operational aspects of the proposed payments system. The solid framework will enable ECOWAS to effectively engage diverse critical stakeholders in the investment of the system through:

  1. Comprehensive functional designs, the business rules and procedures for the regional instant retail payment systems and the RTGS completed
  2. Governance framework work approved and launched to form the umbrella body that will coordinate the operations of the regional instant retail payment systems and the RTGS
  3. Strategic coordination of all partners involved in the switch (banks and non-banks) as well as two working committees; and
  4. Detailed project action plan for the regional instant retail payment systems and the RTGS and for vendor sourcing.
Impact

By 2025, this project should have delivered

  • detailed functional designs and business rules for the regional instant retail payment system and RTGS
  • a clear process of onboarding and managing the vendors, with a lucid sustainability framework fostered by a strengthened governance structure
  • capacity enhancement of relevant teams in different aspects of the project.

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Payment systems upgrade and development

ADFI Focus Areas

Digital Infrastructure

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