In the wake of the bankers association’s decision to leave the local electronic banking network, CarIFS, Government is developing payment solutions for micro and small businesses with the credit union movement, according to Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Commerce Dwight Sutherland.
And the Minister has urged the country’s biggest telecommunications provider to get in on the act, as he revealed he was working with the nation’s credit unions to launch an electronic payments network “very soon”.
Sutherland made the suggestion in a speech as C&W Business launched a new range of plans for businesses at Sandal’s Royal Barbados at Dover.
While praising C&W Business and sister company FLOW for assisting the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector, Sutherland said that along with initiatives that provide businesses with additional capacity in the area of information and communications technology (ICT), it was critical that there “be access to a workable solution that will drive the sector in the area of payments”.
The Commerce Minister revealed that he had met with the credit union movement and “they have to rely on a system next year, other than the CarIFS system”.
He noted many MSMEs were credit union members, and that the country’s credit union membership base was about 200,000 out of a population of 280,000.
The Minister declared: “We have a duty as a Government.
“So, I am actively engaged in the development of an alternative platform to the CarIFS for the credit union movement. You will hear more about this very soon.”
Sutherland suggested that now was the time to use the information and communications technology in the development of small businesses in Barbados, as more and more apps were being made available for customers to pay for goods and services using their mobile phones.
The Minister for Small Business challenged C&W Business and FLOW to move ahead with developing payment solutions.
Sutherland suggested that the homegrown digital cash app, mMoney, be considered, and praised C&W Business and FLOW for recognizing MSMEs as a critical sector requiring “so much more than traditional telecom services”.
He said: “In an increasingly digital age, uninterrupted connectivity, speed of service and easy access for customers are crucial for small businesses from the outset. I believe that the services and solutions that were revealed here… will provide MSMEs with the necessary tools to assist them in carrying their business to the next level.”
MSMEs contribute almost half of the revenue generated by private non-agricultural industries, Sutherland said. He called on telecommunications companies and other ICT firms to make “a more determined effort” to come up with business solutions that will help them operate more efficiently and effectively.
Sutherland said: “Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) contribute 47.5 per cent of the overall $7.3 billion of revenue generated by the private non-agricultural sector in Barbados.
“Given their importance, these businesses need ICT-based solutions in terms of multi-tasking, expanding the customer base, raising productivity, controlling costs, working remotely and making fast and accurate decisions.”
Sutherland suggested that small businesses may feel the pinch from the CARIFS withdrawal more than their larger counterparts, noting that many MSMEs held accounts at various credit unions.
As Sutherland encouraged telecoms to develop digital payment solutions, he cited the example of the Kenya-based company, Safaricom, which had come up with an electronic payment system called M-Pesa, which was now being used in nine countries.
He said: “The M-Pesa system was initially designed to allow microfinance-loan repayments to be made by mobile phone, and eventually expanded to become a general money-transfer scheme.
“M-Pesa is now used by over 17 million Kenyans and around 25 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product flows through it.
“Vodafone also offers M-Pesa services to nine other countries including Albania, Lesotho, Tanzania, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Romania, and Egypt.”
Earlier in the evening, Flow’s Country Manager Jenson Sylvester outlined the features of the Flow Business packages and told the customers apart from its Essential and Advanced packages, they could customize the service based on their individual business’ needs.