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Lowering the cost of doing business in Africa: Leveraging the COMESA Regional Payments and Settlement System (REPSS)
Africa contributes only a meagre proportion of global trade. Intra-regional trade among nations on the continent of Africa remains below that of other regions such as Asia, Europe, North America and so on. As part of the continent’s strategy to alleviate this shortcoming, efforts to promote trade have taken centre stage, with the creation of Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is one of these RECs, and comprises 21 countries. In order to consolidate regional trade among these countries, COMESA put in place a secure, reliable and efficient payment system called the Regional Payment and Settlement System (REPSS). The REPSS denominates its transactions in US dollars and euros. Despite the many benefits attributable to the REPSS, uptake remains low because of technological glitches, stagnation of economic growth and structural transformation, as well as technological appropriation that has facilitated the proliferation of ‘illegal’ cross-border retail payment systems.
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George Wilson Ssonko is a Principal Economist in the Communications Department of the Central Bank of Uganda. His role entails research dissemination from the Central Bank knowledge construction process to various stakeholders, such as financial institutions, business personnel and policy makers, among others. Before joining the Communications Department, he spent five years (2008–13) in the Economic Research Department studying wholesale and retail payment systems. George was an academician (2004–8) at Makerere University and Kyambogo University. He is still an adjunct professor at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) and Uganda Institute of Banking and Financial Services (UIBFS). George holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from UMU and a master’s in Agricultural Economics from the University of Reading, UK.