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Modernization of the Payment Systems Infrastructure in Mauritania

Project Development Objective (PDO)

This project aims to support the modernization of the payment systems in Mauritania, through the development of the legal and regulatory framework, the elaboration of a national strategy, the implementation of an automated system for the straight through processing of payments, and the implementation of the strengthened payment systems ‘oversight framework. In the long term, the modernized payments system will positively impact on financial intermediation and inclusion for the country.

Background

The National Payment System (NPS) in Mauritania is at a very rudimentary stage of development, which has a negative impact on both economic development and financial inclusion. It is dominated by cash and physical exchanges of paper instruments and lacks the core elements of a NPS. Banks, public entities and utilities allocate large resources for cash management and are requesting modern payment instruments, which would be safer, more efficient and cheaper. Only certified checks are accepted outside banks (they are mainly used to withdraw money with a bank teller) but they suffer from a lack of credibility, from the ineffectiveness of the database covering payment incidents and of the lack of automatic clearing which make it compulsory to bring them to manual clearing houses. The only inter-bank system is the manual cheque clearing house operated by the Central Bank. It processes both large and low value cheques without an adequate risk management framework and exposes the participants as well as the CBM to important legal and financial risks. Also, corporates as well as small and medium enterprises in Mauritania don’t have access to efficient, secure, fast and cost-effective ways to make and receive payments, such as automated credit transfers and direct debits. They have to bear the multiple costs related to cash handling and management (counting, security, physical delivery, potential frauds and thefts). Most of the population has to travel and spend time in lines to make or receive payments, and has no access to a transaction account, that would allow to make payments and constitute the gateway to other financial services (savings, insurance).  There is no framework for mobile money, and no national strategy for the development of electronic payments, despite the existence of a national switch for cards (GIMTEL Switch). Card payments increased since 2007, but remain very small and these cards are still used to withdraw money rather than make payments. There are only 70 points of sales (POS), essentially in places visited by foreigners. GIMTEL infrastructure should be used for all retail electronic payments, including mobile payments. It could become the platform for interoperability of all electronic payments, which would increase its economic efficiency and sustainability. This will however require a strong catalyst role of the public authorities through their retail payments strategy, and the Central Bank in its oversight function. 

Activities / Output

The expected activities include the following:

1.  Review the existing legal framework and draft new Payment Systems law 

2.  Develop a National Payments System Development Strategy, based on the applicable
     international standards that would identify gaps and present recommendations
     across the pillars that form the technical and regulatory framework for payment and
     settlement in Mauritania

3.  Provide technical support for an automated system for the straight through processing of
     payments, for large-value payments and retail payments.

4.  Develop the function of National Payment System oversight within the Central Bank.

Expected Outcomes

The main expected outcomes of the project are as follows:

1.  An enabling legal framework established, supporting the introduction of efficient and innovative
    payment products

2.  A consensus on a long-term vision established and an action plan to implement an efficient,
    inclusive, and reliable payment system approved by the authorities

3.  A new or updated payment infrastructure introduced, taking the recommended functional
    requirements

4.  Authorities (CBM) have adequate legal power and tools to oversee and develop the payments
    system