CBL Boss Hails New Financial Transaction Technology – Says It’s Important Milestone for Liberia’s Economy

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Efforts by the Government of Liberia and its partners to resuscitate the country’s ailing economy are launched from diverse fronts. While others are fighting inflation and ensuring that the cost of living in the country is surmounted and Liberians are given their rightful place in the economy, there are those who are endeavoring to keep the economy on par with international standards, including but not limited to generically transforming its processes and procedures. The Central Bank of Liberia and its partners have launched a new technology that improves digitized financial transactions and shares information and data. As The Analyst reports, Executive Governor Patray is very fond of the revolutionary effort and is calling on partners and stakeholders to make a maximum use of it.

Central Bank Government Nathaniel Patray has called on partners and stakeholders in the Liberian financial sector to contribute their fair share to the utilization of the new found technology, the Financial Sector Super Data Highway (FiSSDaH), in order to leverage the infrastructure and all its benefits to the public.

(FiSSDaH) project replaces the deprecated Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) infrastructure, which had been in use, and will now be provisioned on a One Gigabyte capacity network, throughout the sector to deliver a more robust, resilient, secure, accessible and available medium through which data involving financial transactions are traversed to meet the interoperability and connectivity requirements of the financial sector ecosystem.

Speaking Tuesday, June 25, during the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Financial Sector Super Data Highway (FiSSDaH), Governor Patray said the CBL had agreed with the implementing partners of the modernization of payment system that after about three (3) years, the sector should be apt enough to shoulder some of the cost of the infrastructure, especially on components that provide integration and interoperability.

Stakeholders of the ecosystem include the Commercial Banks, non-bank Financial Institutions, The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Commercial Telecommunications Operators and Mobile Money Operators, and the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO).

He said the FiSSDaH will have as its backbone the fiber optics network (Dark Fiber), a service maintained and operated by LIBTELCO, as the primary channel of connectivity for the Metropolitan Area Network.

“It replaces the current wireless infrastructure which shall be retained as a backup infrastructure for the MAN,” the CBL boss said, applauding the team of technicians that made the new technology and MOU possible. “As is common knowledge, the radio link infrastructure is susceptible to the elements, noise or attenuation and adverse weather conditions.”

   With the advent of the FiSSDaH, he said, “the CBL will serve as a liaison between the entities for facilitating data and financial transactions communications amongst themselves and other beneficiaries and will no longer own the infrastructure as it has been in the past.”

According to Governor Patray, the cascading of the new technology marked “another milestone in the modernization of our infrastructure where the entities, CBL and LIBTELCO will all be benefactors and contributors to the FiSSDaH solution.”

He added: “An integral part of digitization of our sector begins with the ability to be able to connect all systems no matter how dispersed and distant. This FiSSDaH implementation negates the challenge of no connectivity. Put another way, what is being inaugurated today would help us address the “system down syndrome” which has placed a dent on the delivery of digital services in the country.”

The CBL boss recalled that the modernization of the Payment System in Liberia under the auspices of the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI), and the Central Bank of Liberia, with grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB), saw the emergence and deployment of a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) with the use of point-to-point radio links technology.

The technology, he said, required the building or construction of Antennas atop buildings including the CBL headquarters and its Disaster Recovery Site, and head offices of Commercial Banks.

According to him, the radio link technology’s original capacity was 2 megabytes which was lately increased to a 6 megabyte bandwidth upon the last contract signing with the solution provider but increased in bandwidth capacity due to the additional services deployed and configured on the network.

“Some of these services are VRegcoss, the reporting application used by all commercial banks to submit returns to the CBL, and the National Electronic Payment Switch to name a few,” Governor Patray further asserted, adding that “these critical services had to leverage this already deprecated platform since it was the only medium available at the time.”

He said the cost of the service, which is over half a million United States Dollars, has been the sole responsibility of the Central Bank since 2015, post implementation, including maintenance, licenses, radios replacement, mast realignment, consultancy amongst others.

He thanked all partners for endorsing the MOU for connecting the sector, which according to him lays the foundation for a secure, robust, and accessible interoperable infrastructure.

“I ask each of us to take seriously our responsibilities in this MOU as stakeholders and deliver adequate banking and other financial services to the people of Liberia,” he said. “This is another great day in the sector as we seek to achieve the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. Collectively we can lift our people out of poverty!”

Also speaking during the ceremony, the Deputy Finance Minister for Budget at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, who proxy for the Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, Tenneh Brumskine said the signing of Memorandum of Understanding is a result of several significant steps and consultations by officials in the financial and banking sector.

She said some of the institutions were involved with developing legislations and regulations, policy making and supervision.

She said the MOU in no way usurps or dilutes the role of the respective institutions but rather shares information and where desirable facilitates collective and coordinated approach to financial sector monitoring framework and crisis resolution.

“It is important that we remember the need for coordinated oversight because while the relevant institutions are distinctly and individually supervised at a micro level, the financial system encompasses interconnected relationship and activities and is subject to common and transferable ricks,” the Deputy Finance Minister said.

According to her, the Memorandum of Understanding will not only foster collaboration and coordination through the sharing of data and information for purposes of monitoring and risk assessment but will also facilitate structured and coordinated response to any financial system imbalances and resolutions that may arise.

“ICT is of great importance to the promotion of the national development,” she asserted. “The financial services industry has undergone immense technological transformation, at the very core of which is data and as such, the collection, use and sharing of data holds an exciting promise.”

She also indicated that Government’s Pro-Poor Agenda Prosperity and Development (PAPD) identified ICT as a critical catalyst for socio-economic development as well as an impetus of good governance, thus it is recognized as one of the national priority areas.

She said while there is a consensus among executives and public sector leaders from the central banks and regulators that data if used responsibly it will yield substantial improvements to the way financial services are delivered and consumed, the inappropriate use of data is a key risk faced by financial systems.

“So while we seek technological advancement, we must also develop robust, financial and data infrastructure that protects the integrity of data and financial services,” Madam Brusmkine, adding: “This MOU represents a responsibility to collectively safeguard the integrity of the financial system and sets a significant milestone for closer technological advancement in our banking sector; the aim is to make it possible to clear payments and settle accounts within seconds, regardless of currency.”

She noted that the collaboration amongst partners reflects an effort to catch up with global technology as customers no longer rely exclusively on their banks for financial services.

Getting this infrastructure right is therefore critical to the financial industry’s future success, the Deputy Finance Minister asserted.

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