Ms. Idani showing her prepaid card. Credit: Seraphin Kientega

Burkina Faso: When the Public Treasury Enters the Age of Digital Payments

Maimouna Gueye, Senior Financial Sector Specialist
Tenin Fatimata Dicko, Senior Financial Sector Specialist

Ms. Idani has worked at the Treasury for several years and is going on an official mission to Senegal. She is delighted to receive her per diem on her Yennenga prepaid card and not have to travel with cash as she did before, as this was both a source of stress and an added risk of loss or theft. The card, which bears the GIM-UEMOA logo, allows her to withdraw money from teller machines throughout the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU, made up of eight member states) and to make purchases at major retail outlets that accept payments on electronic payment terminals. And if the card is lost, all transactions can be blocked by merely calling a number. All civil servants in Burkina Faso, beginning with Treasury officials, will also benefit from this payment facility.

With the advent of digital technology, the system of public payments in Burkina Faso has seamlessly integrated with the private sector, transforming the lives of Treasury officials. With the support of the World Bank-financed Project for Financial Inclusion and Access to Finance for Small and Medium Enterprises (PAIF-PME), the National Treasury and Public Accounting Directorate has been modernized and has entered the digital age. Under the PAIF-PME, the Treasury is connected to the Automated Transfer and Settlement System (STAR-UEMOA) and the Automated Interbank Clearing System (SICA-UEMOA), enabling the digitization of check clearing processes and facilitating electronic funds transfers. The Treasury is connected to the same regional payment platforms as all banks in the WAEMU zone. With the click of a mouse, payment processing times have been reduced from three days to less than 24 hours. Automated check clearing and electronic funds transfers are the first steps in the establishment of a digital payment system.

Burkina Faso: When the Public Treasury Enters the Age of Digital Payments

The project also enabled the Treasury to connect to the regional interbank electronic payment system (GIM-UEMOA) and provide beneficiaries with prepaid bank cards that could then be used at all teller machines in the WAEMU zone. These cards are designed to reduce the use of cash. They are currently used for per diems, but the aim is to extend them to other payment flows. In addition to facilitating the connection to GIM-UEMOA, the financial inclusion project also supports the acquisition of solar-powered payment terminals for Treasury offices in remote areas of the country.

As a result of the successive crises that have buffeted the country, several banks and microfinance institutions have opted to close networks and service points that were located in fragile areas. On the demand side, many accounts have become inactive due to the internal displacement of account holders and the loss of their identification documents and bank details. These factors have contributed to a slide in Burkina Faso’s financial inclusion indicators.

According to Findex 2014-2017, Burkina Faso recorded the largest increase (up 29%, moving from 14 to 43%) in the number of adults with an account in the WAEMU zone, thanks to Mobile Money. As the security crisis intensified, this trend was partially reversed, with the number of adults with an account decreasing from 43% to 36% between 2017 and 2021.

Burkina Faso: When the Public Treasury Enters the Age of Digital Payments

When governments digitize financial services, including payments, it helps enhance financial inclusion, as people adopt these channels and tools in greater numbers. Thus, in addition to its work with bank cards and payment terminals, the project supports the modernization of the Treasury’s IT infrastructure to facilitate the deployment of its integrated payment platform. This platform will integrate all existing Treasury payment methods and will facilitate the use of Mobile Money, the main driver of financial inclusion in Burkina Faso and throughout the WAEMU zone.

The project also supports the digitization of pension payments and customs duties and charges. Currently, over 4,000 retirees who used to receive their pension payments in cash are now being paid via Mobile Money. Furthermore, the eCustoms integrated payment platform, officially launched in December 2023, should enable users to choose from a variety of payment methods to defray their customs duties and charges, including Mobile Money.

The support of the PAIF-PME for the digitization of government payments through the adoption of payment methods such as bank cards and Mobile Money has led to the smoother execution of transactions, while reducing the handling of cash and, above all, ensuring greater transparency in payment processes. The digitization of Treasury payments, pensions and customs is a first step. There are still other government payment streams to be digitized to allow more people to save time and money, while strengthening financial inclusion and reducing the costs borne by the government to make these payments.

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