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Paying farmers in cash is about to come to an end if Dr Opoku, Deputy CEO of Ghana’s cocoa regulator gets his way. Plans are well underway to create a new digital platform, with the help of the private sector, that will pay farmers immediately for their crop when it is sold to COCOBOD.

About 80% of transactions are done in cash, which means COCOBOD currently needs to find over GH¢ 8.3 billion to distribute, and somehow to achieve this without robbery and corruption eating into the farmer’s hard-earned income. The digital cash system will be traceable, creating a non-repudiable audit trail all the way through the payment chain.

During the next season, the regulator plans to run a beta test of the project and hopes to quickly incorporate any lessons and fixes so that it can be fully rolled out by the following season.

At that time, cash will be removed as an option, and farmers will be required to sell through the platform, which will add a significant amount of additional dynamism to a traditionally slow industry. The sector as a whole employs around 2 million people, so the success of this project will have a big impact and go some way toward building trust in digital platforms as a whole, which can then be leveraged into new projects.

The direct and indirect cost savings are significant. The Licensed Buying Companies (LBC’s) estimate they can save circa 10% if all payments go digital, but other indirect savings can be had as well. Printing banknotes is an expensive business, typically outsourced to foreign companies such as the UK’s De La Rue plc, which specialise in secure printing of banknotes, the cost of which can start to be reduced as the country moves towards more digital-centric payments.

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