Rwanda: Central Bank grants testing approval to emerging fintech firm

As governments move to encourage the digitalization of financial services, the regulatory testing environment concept, popularly known as ‘sandbox’, is taking off worldwide.

Governments are designing sandboxes to attract innovative digital products to their respective markets rapidly.

Regulatory sandboxes typically involve temporary relaxations or adjustments of regulatory requirements to provide a safe space for startups or established companies to test new technology-based financial services.

Under this concept, startups and companies are often given a testing approval for a limited time, without having to undergo a full authorisation and licensing process.

In Rwanda, the government has begun implementing the sandbox concept as part of the broader innovation initiatives that the country seeks to encourage and promote digital financial services.

Riha Payment System is one of the players to receive the privilege to work on a basis of a sandbox regulatory framework initiated by the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR).

The firm has secured a six-month testing approval of their innovative mobile wallet solution (Riha Mobile Wallet). It is the first startup in Rwanda to be granted such permission.

According to John Karamuka, the Head of Payment Systems at BNR, the sandbox regulatory framework is in place to allow testing of innovative payment products to fast-track the rollout of the Rwanda cashless economy.

Riha mobile wallet is a consumer and merchant and retailer engagement platform that enables various digital transactions to happen seamlessly.

Alain Ndayishimiye, the solution’s owner, the platform will offer users with financial services, including money transfer, bills payment, personal finance management, and remittance.

The platform will also facilitate lifestyle services like enabling consumers to shop online, order food and purchase movie, events and transport tickets, among other things.

“The system is simply a payment platform, meaning that you can access payments, do all your transactional accounts under one platform,” he said.

This could bring to an end instances where one has to have smart cards from different banks and at the same time you have MTN mobile money and Airtel money; the system will integrate all these under one platform.

Ndayishimiye explained to Business Times that the platform also uses artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithm to understand people’s behaviours and their spending patterns. This, inturn, he said, helps consumers to manage their personal finances and spend smarter.

“For retailers, it’s a future proof of payment acceptance platform with the ability to create a truly personal buying experience for the consumer,” he noted, adding that with the wallet, merchants can identify, understand and engage with customers while building relationships that drive value.

The firm envisions that the platform will create the value addition that mobile technology can unlock across the payment and retail spectrum.

The platform will come in form of a mobile application.

Ndayishimiye says a select group of users will be able to download and use the system starting next month with an official public launch scheduled for the first quarter of 2019.