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RSwitch awarded the best e-payment service provider in Rwanda for 2021

Recently, the firm has also ventured into mobile interoperability

On 25 September 2021, RSwitch was awarded “The Best e-payment Service Provider in Rwanda” by the International Finance. The firm is focused on expanding the financial services ecosystem by delivering interoperable solutions using the best capabilities and the most reliable technology.

Established in 2003, RSwitch is the national electronic payment service provider in Rwanda with the purpose of connecting all East Africans with their e-money. RSwitch’s mandate is to deliver interoperability in terms of mobile payment.

Since its inception, the firm has been operating with the main focus on interoperability. Most of us understand interoperability as a new feature. However, it started way back because for financial institutions or multinational organisations to transact with one another, to migrate from internal systems and meet on one interlinked transaction, they need a switch. RSwitch has been providing those switching services using different ends. Such services are provided through Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and Point of Sales (POSs). Recently, the firm has also ventured into mobile interoperability. In a conversation with International Finance, RSwitch Ag. Chief Executive Officer Mathieu F. Rwiyereka, discusses interoperability and the company’s products and services.

What are developments in the services that you offer?
The world of technology is changing. RSwitch is coping with the emerging and ever-changing technologies, we have seen a trend into the needs of more electronic, more instant and more available payment solutions. It is in that way; we are rolling out new features.

RSwitch owns and operates a scheme called Smartcash, a card payment scheme mostly delivered to banks but also to non-financial institutions to facilitate the exchange of payment transactions.

The card was traditionally designed to operate with ATMs and POSs, but we are enhancing it to swiftly operate virtually by enabling processing of online transactions with other schemes and to fully transact all over East Africa and internationally, we will be rolling out co-branded Smartcash cards on the market and equipping it with international switching capabilities.

Talking a little bit about interoperability, given the growing needs and the growing financial inclusion in Rwanda, we are operating and anticipatively delivering a mobile interoperability system called RNDPS (Rwanda National Development Payment System).

It is innovative because it is coming with a highly efficient and seamless business model. And by being centralised it means high availability, more security, more features and more end-user convenience as an instant payment system.

What challenges have you encountered while delivering your services?
Our challenges are quite common; we have seen Covid-19 greatly affecting the supply chains of electronics all over the world and that from time to time, has affected our business, but we are not down, we are able to overcome the challenges and we are happy to see more stakeholders aligning with us to address these challenges.

You earlier mentioned that you provide services not only to Rwandans, but to East Africans, so how are you positioning yourself at the East African level?
Not only East Africa, but we are also rolling out our cards and solutions to the whole world starting from East Africa, with our Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) certifications, we are even able to process as a third-party processor the transactions of all other schemes namely VISA, MasterCard, UPI and others.

We are currently in partnerships with other international switches including those in Kenya, Tanzania as well as boarding to DRC and Burundi with the intention of interconnecting our systems to facilitate the exchange of cross border financial values.

If switches in Kenya and Tanzania are fully connected and services are exchanged, we will be able to provide technology convenience to all East Africans.

But more is still in the pipeline. We are innovating, and we will be communicating on all the developments we will be rolling out to East Africans.

As field workers, how do you think interoperability can be totally achieved?
The Digital payment Interoperability (RNDPS) journey was initiated in 2018 by the National Bank of Rwanda as a catalytic solution implementing further the National Payment Strategy as well as the Government of Rwanda’s Vision 2050. A conceptual blueprint was therefore signed off by participating FSPs in September 2018.

The 3 pillars of RNDPS are: (1) Enhance the efficiency of retail payments, (2) Improve the customer experience, and (3) Create opportunities to increase transaction volumes.

Let me commend the Central Bank, the Ministry of ICT and the Government of Rwanda that really took a major step into strategising such a system.

The journey to a cashless economy started a long time ago, I can happily tell you that we have been able to be equipped with the solutions it requires and we have even tested and lively demonstrated it recently. The whole plan is to make sure that this is implemented as soon as possible.

A Law has been adopted by the parliament to fast-track financial interoperability. When should we expect this law to have an impact?
The law is already being implemented. Telecom operators, banks, fintechs and microfinance institutions have been part of the teams working on this solution and I think it is naturally the time for congratulating them for having the business curiosity of always aiming more, I do believe that with that, we are good to deliver on interoperability as soon as possible.

So, what is your role in delivering this solution?
From an architectural perspective, our initial role is to enable the solution. So, RNDPS is changing how technology used to be accessed.

Initially, every financial service provider had to bilaterally connect with others, leaving some in a one-way interconnectivity or some not interoperated at all. The aim of RNDPS is to avail technology for all and give a pipe to every institution. It adds a dose of efficiency, high availability, and convenience for everyone.

What we are doing is preparing a highly secured environment, we are checking all over, testing and retesting, and agreeing on the scheme activities to make sure that it starts with the needed muscles and convenience.

By RNDPS, we are not only looking at person-to-person payment. This is the first use case, but the second use case is merchant interoperability, a person paying a business and vice versa.

The third is the transactions related to collections, persons paying to the government and the government paying the citizens.

We are already equipped; it is only a matter of time to test it with institutions and 80 percent of our intended institutions have already connected with us, so we are conducting needed tests and agreeing on the scheme principles governing us, so far, the road is so good, we are coming to the conclusion of this, I don’t see any challenge that would hamper our initiative of fulfilling the cashless agenda.

What is your final message?
To Rwandans, we have the payment services everyone has been looking for. When you have money in the pocket, you are the only one with access to it, but when it is stored electronically, institutions can use its equivalent and easily lend it to multiple other parties, which is helping us to scale up the country’s economy, so I call you all to embrace the cashless economy.

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