- Payments will be quicker, more efficient, and more collaborative.
- The system provides a standard for developing and generating a unified QR Code.
- A customer will be presented with an option to pay using QR at a merchant point of sale.
Over the years, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has implemented various initiatives to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and stability of Kenya’s National Payment System (NPS).
In particular, and with consultation with players in the payments ecosystem, several measures have been undertaken that have resulted in the launch of innovative solutions.
The solutions have increased the relevance, affordability, and convenience of Kenyans making payment transactions, both large-value, retail, and cross-border.
To build on these gains, the Central Bank of Kenya, in collaboration with stakeholders in the payment ecosystem, developed and launched the National Payment Strategy 2022-2025.
The strategy aims to achieve the vision of a secure, fast, efficient and collaborative payments system that supports financial inclusion and innovations that benefit Kenyans.
Implementation is anchored on five core principles: trust, security, usefulness, choice and innovation.
This KE-QR Code Standard will guide users on how data should be presented by the merchant, including what fields are mandatory or optional.
Customer scanning apps must interpret the data according to this Standard.
The Standard is based on the international standards adopted from EMVR QR Code Specification for Payment Systems (EMVR QRCPS) Merchant–Presented Mode v1.1, November 27, 2020.
To facilitate payment initiation by the consumer, the Code will contain transaction currency and the amount and provide additional information fields such as convenience fees and tip amounts, where these values must be correctly captured into the final transaction value.
One of the strategic goals of the Strategy is: To enhance the safety and security of the payments system by adopting relevant industry and global standards.
Therefore, the issuance of this Standard is a major step in enabling the NPS based on emerging best practices and global standards, including the use of technologies that can increase convenience, choice, and adoption of digital payments.
At its heart, the KE-QR Code Standard 2023 is aimed at providing a standard for developing and generating a unified QR Code, to be known by the acronym Kenya QR Code (KE-QR).
In the immediate period, the Standard will promote customer convenience, choice, security, and interoperability among various payment institutions and players.
The initial objective is to enable each merchant payment service provider to generate a unified QR Code using the Standard.
Each merchant will be uniquely identified using a combination of their existing merchant PSP ID and their own merchant identifier, as defined by their PSP within the technical specifications.
During the launch on May 3, 2023, at Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, the Governor of Central Bank of Kenya, Dr. Patrick Njoroge, together with various stakeholders, launched the KE-QR Code Standard “Scan Ulipe”.
The code which is set to be used, especially with mobile banking services, is a major milestone for Kenya in the industry.
“Today, we mark another major milestone, the launch of Kenya QR Code Standard. The QR Code Standard that we are launching is the outcome of the collaborative process that brought together the regional payment senior citizens, including banks, payment service providers, outgrown partners, and the Central Bank of Kenya,” Dr. Njoroge said.
He added that it is a milestone in more than one respect, particularly because of the collaboration that has taken place.
“I thank each institution that has been part of the collaborative effort in the formulation of the Standard. This QR Code Standard as Kenya digital payment infrastructure is expected to enhance the resilience of our digital payment system,” he explained.
The Code will provide Kenyans with an additional more secure payment method, increasing sufficient and consumer options for digital payment standards.
Other benefits of QR Code include the quickness to simplify the process of initiating and making payment transactions.
This will be particularly significant at outlets with large customer traffic, such as supermarkets, shops, stalls, and pharmacies, among others.
“Secondly, the use of the QR Code is expected to increase safety and security of Kenyan transactions by direct data capture that avoids payment mistakes,” the CBK boss explained.
He added that the use of the QR Code will unify payment modes across the entire industry. So that customers will not have to go through the process of paying in different merchants and numbers every time they make purchases.
“The QR Code Standard is characterized by simplicity, convenience and security of making digital payment,” says Dr. Patrick Njoroge.
In addition, during the discussions, Ian Gitonga, a consumer, said that he looks forward to a little bit of creativity in the QR Code Standard as he believes it will appeal to the masses.
Industry players’ responsibilities
The payment service providers will be required to review the KE-QR Code Standard document and understand it.
They also need to update their QR Code to comply with the Standard within the period provided for in the CBK circular and then commit to the QR Code implementation roadmap.
Transaction value usage
If present, the transaction amount shall be different from zero and only include (numeric) digits “0” to “9” and may contain a single period (.) character as the decimal mark.
It cannot contain any other characters (For instance, no space character or comma can be used to separate thousands.)
The payment process
The Code will be presented by the payee (the merchant) and scanned by the payer (the consumer).
The consumer will initiate all transactions using this Standard by scanning the Code presented by the merchant.
The Code will contain information such as the merchant’s business name, location, payment credentials (e.g., till number, paybill, etc.), and industry segment for the purpose of payments.
This will allow for the merchant to be properly identified and simplify the consumer experience by correctly identifying the payment recipient.
The payment service providers will onboard customers as per the existing mobile banking or mobile money wallet onboarding processes.
QR Codes will be scanned using a customer’s smartphone application provided to them by their payment service providers.
For the QR payment, the customer will be presented with an option to pay using QR at a merchant point of sale.
The QR Code at the merchant store will be displayed conspicuously via a sticker or on a POS device.
The customer will then scan the QR Code and check to confirm the merchant business name and transaction value before accepting the payment request.
If the transaction value is not specified in the merchant QR Code, the customer will input the required amount.
Once all the necessary payment details are captured, the customer will initiate the payment by authenticating the transaction via their normal payment service provider process, for example, by entering their PIN.
The customer’s payment service provider will initiate the payment transaction to the merchant’s payment service provider using existing payment transaction rails.
Upon completion of payment, the customer will be notified via SMS, in App, or in such ways as provided by their financial service provider (Bank, MNO, or PSP).
While merchants will be enabled to accept QR Code payments by presenting the QR Code provided by the payment service provider to the customer for scanning, the QR codes will be issued by a merchant’s payment service provider.
The merchant will then present the QR Code to the customer for payment and wait for the customer to initiate the transaction.
Then the merchant’s payment service provider must be able to respond to the payment transaction and accept or decline the transaction in real-time.
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Finally, the merchant will receive a payment confirmation from their payment service provider ( Bank, MNO, or PSP) as soon as the transaction is complete.