As the world is moving towards cashless societies spurred by technological advancements, the question that lies is, are we, in Eswatini, primed for this?
The Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC) notes that there is an appetite for fintech products and services in Eswatini, however, its use and application is skewed and limited to only a few products. The researchers say this is further compounded by low levels of innovation and creativity to expand the scope of fintech.
While hard cash can still have its uses, especially between banks, physical money costs a lot to store, transfer and produce. Most coins produced are less valuable than the material used to make them further questioning their future usefulness. This has led to more people trying out cashless payments and e-commerce even in Eswatini.
Cashless Payments in Eswatini are currently handled by means of bank transfers, cheques, credit and debit cards, with no bills or coins handed from person to person.
The Eswatini Finance, a local financial literacy source, describes cashless payments as financial transactions that are not conducted with money in the form of physical banknotes or coins, but rather through the transfer of digital information (usually an electronic representation of money) between the transacting parties.
One of the leading information technology experts in Eswatini Mfundo Mohammed from OnSwaziline further explores the gains and losses of this emerging trend.
“Going cashless is indeed the way to go and has numerous benefits and is the way to go. It will accelerate our quest to become a 1st world country,” he said.
Noting its benefits he said people do not need to carry money around.
“This may improve general sales everywhere because when you see something you like, you buy it regardless of whether you have cash on you or not. This is particularly important in growing SMEs,” he said.
He said this would be great for tourists because they can buy anywhere in the country. He said another benefit was that it creates traceable money trails.
In terms of practicality he said the new trend means more people must have bank accounts which speaks to the credibility of the source of funds.
He said POS terminals need to be readily available at a wider scale particularly in the ‘corner’ shops outside of town. This also requires a wider coverage of stable national internet networks and related services.
Everything has its good and bad side and even cashless society has its own challenges.
“There are issue of user training and familiarity in using cashless systems. From my experience, Emaswati are very sensitive on issues pertaining access to their money. They will not be readily willing to use a system unless they have confidence that they know how it works and have comfort that the system is secure,” he said.
There is therefore a fear that such new times may open room for sophisticated cyber white collar crimes.