The African Development Fund’s Board of Directors has approved $3.9 million grant to finance upgrade of Liberia’s payments infrastructure and systems project.
The approval of the grant from the Bank’s concessional lending window, was made on 17 March. The project’s primary objective is to strengthen the payments ecosystem in Liberia for increased efficiency and to foster growth and innovation. It targets the automated cheque processing and automated clearing house (ACP/ACH) and real-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems, which form the backbone of payments processing in the country’s financial sector.
The project will also involve the upgrade of the Central Bank of Liberia’s main data centre and disaster recovery sites and is expected to impact the institution and government ministries involved in payments. Other beneficiaries include commercial banks and their customers, all of whom will experience improved services and turnaround times, real time processing and online administrative access.
The project will also contribute to increased inclusion and fostering of regional integration through technological upgrade to required standards.
For Liberia, this initiative will directly impact the roll-out of the proposed National Electronic Payments Switch (NEPS) system targeted at the retail market where the greatest exclusion occurs. With the NEPS project approved by the World Bank in 2022 (https://apo-opa.info/3lq8J2q) and its implementation underway, the proposed project is critical to efforts to improve financial inclusion in Liberia, currently standing at 44.2% (Findex 2021), and reach to disenfranchised populations including youth, women, smallholder farmers, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and other rural populations.
Implementation of the new project will commence in June 2023 and will be executed by the Central Bank of Liberia working in close collaboration with banking and non-banking institutions.
African Development Bank country manager for Liberia, Benedict Kanu, said: “the modernisation of Liberia’s payments infrastructure and systems to improve payments efficiency will not only strengthen the formal financial sector, but contribute to greater financial stability and improved private sector development.”
He added that the impact of these improvements would contribute to reducing the financial inclusion gap through the provision of infrastructure support for the World Bank financed NEPS project. The project will also serve to prepare Liberia for the region’s financial integration efforts and increased cross border trade which require robust payments infrastructure.
Ahmed Attout, acting director for the Financial Sector Development Department noted that the Bank’s financial sector development strategy aims to support domestic financial systems in regional member countries and to see that they comply with regional, and international financial standards. He further noted that financial sector development through provision of infrastructure and digital finance support is critical to private sector development particularly in an increasingly digital world that demands more inclusivity.
Liberia’s financial sector suffers from a number of challenges including inadequate ICT and last mile reach infrastructure. Existing payments infrastructure, deployed in 2016 with help from the African Development Bank, have served the country well over the last six years, but require urgent upgrading. This project is expected to maximise potential to strengthen the financial sector, build financial stability, bridge the financial inclusion gap and facilitate integration in the region.