Ŋdi Ŋdi na mi,
That’s “good morning” in Ewe
Legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan has a deep connection with Chinese culture; when their classic record “C.R.E.A.M”
recently popped up on my playlist shuffle, I thought about the last time its chorus:
“Cash Rules Everything Around Me”
was probably true in Chinese society.
In China, cash, first, as a physical item and, second, as a form of payment have become largely non-existent.
Last year, the New York Times did a piece
on this cashless society, and titled it “Don’t Even Try Paying Cash in China”.
If one thing does rule Chinese society, then it would be QR codes.
Those iconic black and white images can be seen everywhere, from the walls of small kiosks to the plush counters of 5-star hotels.
The advantages of QR codes are clear:
- Simple set up with no expensive hardware like a Point-of-Sale (POS) machine.
- The transactions are quick and require few steps.
- The transactions have a low error rate.
In the early days in China, adoption was driven by digital payments. QR readers were embedded in super apps, WeChat and Alipay, and the proliferation of those apps in activities like messaging and social commerce was essential to the use cases for QR becoming far-reaching.
shares up to 16 of those use cases from identifying old people to giving of alms.
Around Africa, QR codes are still in those early days where adoption is being driven by payment processors and financial service providers.
On this podcast
, an executive from Visa explains how QR payments have grown in the last 4-5 years, noting that its application in e-Commerce has been surprisingly strong.
In Nigeria and Ghana, the government is emerging as another driver of QR code adoption. In both countries, the inter-bank settlement companies recently set up QR-code-based payments and collections platforms - NQR code
in Nigeria and GhQR code in Ghana.
Ghana has gone a step further by setting up what it’s tagging
as "the first” universal QR code system in Africa.
There are three things that this system should achieve:
- Unify QR payments and reduce fragmentation among providers.
- Make it easier for anyone to make QR payments to merchants from any funding source (mobile wallets, cards, bank accounts).
- Increase adoption among merchants and consumers, and eventually grow beyond payments.
But any talk of a cashless society in the same vein as China’s are still too ambitious.
Even though both societies are mobile-first, in China, mobile devices are often a smartphone, while in Africa, it’s often a feature phone.
It is, therefore, clear that 2G-friendly payment methods remain the clearest path to a cashless African society.
That said, the GhQR does have an integration
with USSD that sounds interesting and I’m curious to see how it works at scale.