Actually, it’s day 5 since the policy began. And Lagos is still humming along like always, no wahala. But if this experiment works, it would go a long way to change the way money moves in the country — less cash handling costs for Banks and the CBN, less robbery and the fear of it, less corruption, more accountability — of course while the challenges of infrastructure and knowledge still persist, it will continue to be a long road, but already Lagos has taken the first step.
As for knowledge, somebody involved (I haven’t had the time to verify the actual culprit) has had the good sense to have a website made – cashlesslagos.org – to sensitise, well, those who can visit websites. I think the website is nice, yeah, and the model is pretty. Hmm, it’s not optimised for mobile — fail.
That small gripe aside, I think the site does a great job of presenting the facts and busting the rumours. For instance, the fact that Cash-less Lagos actually means “less cash” not “no cash”. There aren’t any illusions that you can go to Balogun market toting just your ATM card, or that Taxi drivers should start carrying PoS terminals in their cabs. Good ol’ smelly cash is not going anywhere for a while, the CBN just wants less of it in circulation.
The withdrawal and lodgment limits for individuals and corporate entities are set out there. They also present the benefits as well as the alternatives clearly, even if they don’t explain them in-depth or suggest any practical ways to access them. But one really intelligent feature that the site has is the Cash Handling Charge Calculator that allows you see exactly how much you’ll be charged if you decide to withdraw above the daily limit. Enter the figure, and the result is instantaneous, you don’t even have to click anything. Calculate your pound of flesh yourself, very nice.
The site also appears to make surprisingly good use of social media, they even let you tweet with the hashtag #cashlesslagos right from the site. All round, the policy’s online sensitisation strategy looks professional and well thought out. It’s certainly miles away from the monstrously expensive slap-dash contraptions that we’ve come to to expect government web properties to be.
I for one have always tried to handle as little cash as I can. I pay for goods and services online whenever I can get away with it. I can’t remember the last time I visited a bank to pay money into someone’s account, from my GTBank e-banking account I can send money to anyone and any bank, virtually anywhere. But again, problems of infrastructure make it hard sometimes — using Interswitch, on the websites that support it, is a nightmare half the time. Paying for mobile apps in popular app stores is nigh impossible. POS terminals are still too few and far between — I’ve actually never used one before. Someone told me that the establishments that use the POSs transfer the transaction costs to the buyer, making their purchase more expensive than if they’d bought it cash down, and I was like what the…! If that’s a joke, they’d better stop it o…punishing people for adopting progress is just silly, I would have thought that they would even award incentives to encourage adoption. If the government and the CBN are really serious going cashless by 2013, they need to work at making it as easy for people as they possibly can, not harder.
Of course this is good news for the tech ecosystem. Cash-Less means more e-commerce and mobile money adoption. It means that with time, local content providers and app developers will begin to see more people who are willing and able to purchase their products. It means businesses will begin to divert funds from expensive and insecure brick and mortar payment/cash-handling facilities to electronic payment infrastructure, creating more businesses and employment in that sector.
So now that the April 2nd due-date is no longer hanging over our heads, we’ll see how this plays out. The benefits of less physical cash in circulation have never been in doubt — just the will and ability of the government to see it through without bungling it. Now off to get some extra greasy pop-corn to watch this film. Who knows, they might even let me pay with my ATM card.