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Is Ghana becoming a dual currency state? The rise of yellow currency!

Opinion

21 days ago
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In recent years, there has been a subtle introduction of a new currency concept in Ghana known as "Yellow Currency" by the leading mobile money operator, MTN. This new currency is gradually gaining prominence over the Ghanaian Cedi, and regulators seem unaware or unconcerned about its implications.

MTN is leveraging its Significant  Market Power (SMP) and digitalisation to establish a subtle form of Yellow Currency as a dominant force, potentially surpassing the Ghanaian Cedi in relevance.

Currently, certain key MTN services can only be purchased using ONLY MTN payment systems with no alternative payment methods available. It appears mobile money interoperability only works with money transfers but when it comes to data services, MTN leaves no room for interoperability. 

For instance, the MTN Turbonet bundle can only be acquired with only MTN 'MoMo' service. 

Even in instances where a customer does not have E-Money or Money in an MTN Momo wallet, the MTN system forces the customer to convert MTN airtime before they can make payment. This is crowding out all other players within the financial ecosystem which is gradually creating a 'Yellow Currency' for MTN, and subscribers are increasingly being pushed towards self-recharge options, which exclusively accept MTN Momo- 'Yellow Currency'.

Note that the effort by MTN is not even leaving room for other digital channels in the ecosystem. As it stands today, you cannot use any bank channel, other mobile money or e-commerce platform in Ghana to purchase MTN’s Turbonet bundle and very soon, that will be the case for all other MTN services.

Data is the future, so one can appreciate why any business will look into the future but it becomes a cause for concern when such plans seek to deepen monopoly and force consumers towards one direction at the detriment of other players creating an inconvenience for consumers who are left with no other choices.

Today, regardless of whether a customer has cash or is willing to pay for MTN Turbonet services through a bank app or from other mobile money platforms, it is not possible because the market leader has seeded that space to itself. It can only be done through the MTN MoMo platform.

This monopolistic approach by MTN is not just a business strategy; it's a red flag. It restricts consumer choice, undermines the concept of interoperability and the relevance of the Ghanaian currency with time, and excludes other digital channels from the ecosystem. This effectively turns the market in favour of Yellow Currency under duress.

The implications of this move extend beyond the telecom sector. It represents a subtle attack on the Ghanaian Cedi, transforming MTN's ecosystem into a mini-economy with its currency with time.

Digitisation should foster fair competition, not create monopolies that threaten national currencies, stifle consumer choice and make other players irrelevant.

As a sovereign state, Ghana must take strategic measures to safeguard the use and relevance of the Ghanaian Cedi. Any promotion of electronic money within the country should complement the Cedi, not compete against it. The exclusive promotion of Yellow Currency through MTN Mobile Money and MTN SAVE should be closely monitored by regulatory authorities to prevent its dominance over the Cedi.

This should not lead to a future ‘MTN YELLO MONEY’

The Government of Ghana and telecom regulators must not turn a blind eye to this issue. They must intervene to prevent MTN from further promoting 'Yellow  Currency' at the expense of the Cedi and the interests of consumers. The risks associated with MTN's Significant Market Power (SMP) demand proactive measures to ensure a level playing field and protect Ghana's economic interests.

In conclusion, Ghana cannot afford to wait for MTN to implement its Yellow Currency strategic agenda fully. Action must be taken now to preserve the integrity and relevance of the Ghanaian Cedi in the face of emerging digital currencies like Yellow Currency.

source: Bismark Brown Broadcast Journalist Global Media Alliance (Happy Fm)