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Opinions of Friday, 25 June 2021

Columnist: Patrick Owusu-Nuamah

A cashless society, a remedy for armed robbery

The writer says we can deal with robbery if we drastically reduce cost of deals on digital platforms The writer says we can deal with robbery if we drastically reduce cost of deals on digital platforms

In the wake of recent armed robbery cases in the country, may be it is time we revisited the conversation about the need for our society to go cashless.

In the past few weeks, we have seen a surge in robbery cases, all targeted at the holders of physical cash; from mobile money agents to bullion vans. The most worry part of these stories is that, the robbers possess very sophisticated weapons, hence their decision to strike at any time of the day.

Many security experts and analysts have made several suggestions but all of them have not achieved the desired results. Recently the IGP threatened to withdraw his men from accompanying bullion vans if banks do not employ the use of armoured cars.

Some people even suggested the use of helicopters, all of which are good suggestions though. However, if cash in transit are protected, what of mobile money agents, forex bureau operators, traders and other citizens whose daily activities involve the handling of cash; not forgetting armed robbery cases in homes which sometimes lead to injuries, rape and even death.

A careful observation of these incidences show, that these robbers are attracted to CASH, so, why not take away their object of attraction. Cash they say is King, “sika ye mogya."

With cash in your hands, you have so much power and a lot can be done easily. Buying whatever you want, bribing your way through the system, getting people to worship and follow your orders. These criminals are therefore, motivated to go for cash ones they detect minimal resistance.

No government wants to be unpopular by legislating against the use of cash in our society. We are all witnesses to how the banning of motor bikes (Okada) has been turned into a political football.

Otherwise, the best solution, arguably, would have been, getting an executive instrument or parliament to pass a law barring banks to accept deposits above one thousand Ghana cedis (Ghc1000.00) for instance.

Obviously a move like that will put a lot of people out of business and employment; mobile money agents, bank tellers, mobile bankers for microfinances etc.

So the other way to handle this is to drastically reduce or better still remove completely the cost of transaction on digital platforms. It has been observed, that the high cost of transaction is a major reason a lot of people and businesses will want to have cash in their hand.

On the average, most digital platform owners charge Ghc10 for every transaction above 1000ghc. Now imagine having to make various payments up to Ghc5000 that will attract a fee of Ghc50 which is quite significant for an individual or even for a business; now think of doing such payments every week, month or year that will be equivalent or even more expensive than having a current account.

We must commend Vodafone cash for taking away transaction charges across board. But we will need the government to rise to the occasion but creating a wallet on the Ghana card for instance, and make cost of transactions free.

People will then, not find the need to withdraw in block, because they can transact as many as they can without a charge or with a little charge(say a flat rate of 1gh for a whole day), thereby encouraging a lot more people to patronize the system.

At least even if you are asked at gun point to transfer your funds to any other digital platform, with a robust system in place, we will be able to trace wherever the money went to. If there’s little cash in our system these attacks will reduce drastically.

Robbers will now have to be stealing TV sets, refrigerators and the likes, which will be more time consuming & cumbersome for them and less painful for us to loose such assets.

More often, we hear arguments that, systems are expensive and hence, some fees need to be taken to pay for its maintenance; have we thought about the cost of fighting crimes for so many years without getting anything back?

We have a choice to choose between an “armed” robber, who will sometimes rape or kill our loved ones or have a “cyber” robber whom we will not even come into contact with. Once we have life, there’s a lot more we can acquire or do than we ever imagined. The choice is ours!