If Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has been a staunch adherent of putting in place digital structures to drive the economic transformation of Ghana, it should be no surprise to anyone who has come across his 2010 bestseller Monetary Policy and Financial Sector Reform in Africa – Ghana’s Experience.
In the book, Dr. Bawumia extensively delves into monetary policy on the African continent and the need for reforms to ensure economic transformation on the African continent through
His recommendations for reforms, after insightfully touching on all hindering issues, focused on digitization of African economies, which he said will be achieved on three main pillars, namely: unique and verifiable national identification numbers, digital address systems and financial inclusion, which would bring on board the unbanked members of the informal sector.
Unique National Identification Numbers
Dr. Bawumia noted that a key ingredient which underpins financial transaction in any society is trust, but his book found that trust is very low in Ghana’s financial transactions due to lack of database to properly identify people, unlike in developed countries where every individual is identified with a unique national identification number.
Dr. Bawumia noted that the only way to curb this is to have a unique national identification number for the people, which can be easily authenticated both “online and offline.”
Dr. Bawumia wrote about the importance of a system of property addresses, but added that it “is probably one of the most underestimated requirements for the development of an economy and its financial sector.
Stressing on the importance of addressing system in an economy, Dr. Bawumia wrote “one can imagine what would happen if for example, the address system in the United States, United Kingdom, South Korea or Japan disappeared overnight. These economies would basically grind to a halt because so much depends on residential or business addresses.”
He, therefore, recommended that countries like Ghana, should, as a matter of priority, put in place a a comprehensive address system, arguing that the absence of address system also “increases the risk premium bankers attach to a loan.”
Dr. Bawumia called it “banking the unbanked” in his book. He observed that “the financial system cannot develop to its potential and monetary policy cannot be effective if the majority of the population continues to be excluded from access to financial services.”
Having acknowledged the role the Bank of Ghana’s e-switch platform was playing in bridging the financial gap as far as banking was concerned, Dr. Bawumia recommended the use of mobile phones to deliver mobile banking service within Bank of Ghana’s regulatory framework.
In the concluding parts of the book, Dr. Bawumia wrote that the recommendations he has outlined; were some the unwritten rules for effective fiscal policy and financial management, as well as for general development.
“A unique Identification number, an address system and financial inclusion (banking the unbanked) are basically some of the key unwritten rjles for effective monetary policy and financial sector development in particular and over all development,” Dr. Bawumia wrote.
“Without these systems and institutions in place, no monetary policy framework will be sufficient in the long run to engender the type of financial sector that will be critical in the growth process. No donors have thus far required that cojntries put in place address systems, unique IDs, etc. in place as conditions for aid for example.”
Walking the talk as Vice President
Just as he recommended in his highly revered book, Dr. Bawumia, as Vice President and head of Ghana’s Economic Management Team, has followed to the letter the principles he preached in his book, leading to the massive digital transformation of the Ghanaian economy.
Within four years of the NPP administration between 2017 and 2021, Ghana has a unique and verifiable national identification card, a digital property address system and financial inclusion of the unbanked through mobile money interoperability.
Through these pillars, just as Bawumia predicted in his book 11 years ago, there has been a digital transformation with many government services going online, thus bringing relief to people in accessing services, and also helping in the fight against corruption.