Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 23 financial institutions in Uganda now have their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and points of sale connected by Interswitch, an integrated payments and transaction processing company.
This means that account holders at the various banks and other financial institutions can now access their accounts at 650 ATMs countrywide, irrespective of which bank they belong to.
This follows the connection of Equity Bank to the system whose platform markets all financial institutions from SACCOs, microfinance institutions and commercial banks.
Interswitch has been in Uganda for the last 20 years and also operates in another 23 countries in Africa, meaning that financial institutions that have branches in these markets can serve their customers seamlessly.
Interswitch Country Manager, Peter Kawumi says the difference this brings, among others is that cross-bank ATM withdrawals become cheaper by at least 60 per cent since the process is more integrated.
Kawumi used this to appeal to financial and other service providers, especially those using digital technology, to embrace infrastructure sharing, first, to cut the cost of doing business, and also to easily reach more consumers.
He says that apart from the users saving through the lower costs of transactions, the platform also takes the financial services closer to the people, especially in the rural areas where different banks set up branches and ATMs far apart from competitors. He adds that allowing ATM cardholders access to any outlet irrespective of whether they hold accounts there or not, saves them time to concentrate on their other economic activities.
The expansion of the Interswitch services is being helped by the implementation of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy spearheaded by the Bank of Uganda which aims to lower the cost of access to relevant financial services.
Kawumi says that with the Equity partnership, they now have a launch-pad to jointly innovate and to serve the region and consequently, the continent “in a way that is deserving and equitable.” It also enables the bank ATM machines to accept bank cards of other local participating banks and institutions on the Interswitch network, while Equity Bank becomes an acquirer for Verve cards adding to its wide portfolio of cards accepted at all Point-of-sale machine locations and ATMs countrywide.
In Uganda, there are approximately 250,000 holders of a Verve card, a Pan-African debit and payment card that offers issuers, cardholders and organizations comprehensive payment card products and solutions.
Equity Uganda Managing Director, Anthony Kituuka says that the next step will be enabling the Equity cardholders to use their cards at the 6,000 agents countrywide, while cards of other financial institutions will also be used at any Equi DUUKA, the bank’s agency outlets.
“We are delighted and proud of our rapid growth and expansion in Uganda over the last 15 years, bringing us to 50 branches, 7000 Equi Duuka agents and over 6500 merchants. This new partnership with Interswitch will support the existing network and allow us to serve our customers better and meet their financial needs right at their doorsteps. Even as the Bank continues to grow, we are committed to offering Ugandans a great customer experience with a variety of tailor-made products that speak to their financial needs.”
Kituuka was also aware of the growing apprehension by the public towards digital banking following a spate of thefts of money from both banks and mobile money platforms. Equity was one of the most widely mentioned in recent cases before the management assured the customers that the system was being strengthened to ensure a safer banking environment.
Speaking on these fears, Kituuka assured that before the partnership with Interswitch was concluded, a lot of due diligence was done on the system built by what he called the best tech and security systems in the world.
Adding, “whether you are a farmer, a retail or wholesale trader or on transit, Equity bank services will now be accessible across 650 Interswitch enabled ATMs, allowing you to efficiently deposit funds, make withdrawals or make payments. We are keen on growing with our customers and are looking forward to serving them better with this new partnership and as well as working with other partners and contributing to their transformation.”