Ghana’s government is looking to eradicate tangible cash from the majority of its retail services by 2020, as it moves towards becoming Africa’s top nation in terms of digital payments.

The government aims to have “electronically tagged” each and every residence, including unofficial housing in slums, through the use of GPS technology by the beginning of next year. Furthermore, Ghana is looking to digitize payments for all government services by 2020. 

During the Financial Time’s Africa Summit which took place in London last week, Ghana’s vice president Mahamudu Bawumia said: “By leveraging technology to improve transparency and accountability in systems, we are completing in short order what many years of reforms had not been able to accomplish,” adding a cashless society will not only attract more people but it will also aid in the eradication of the country’s omnipresent corruption. 

It was calculated that by the end of 2018, Africa was home to 456 million unique mobile phone subscribers. This figure is forecast to grow to 623 million by the year 2025. Bawumia noted that Ghana had already exceeded Kenya in terms of mobile payments, while it is also using blockchain technology to digitize its land registry. Ghana’s government plans to digitize all hospital records, while works are already being made to digitize court records, he said. 

Bawumia also noted that Ghana is currently in the process of launching national ID cards, a project which the vice president has labelled a “game-changer.”

“It will form the basis of an integrated database with passports, tax identification numbers, and drivers’ licenses,” he said. “No one can hide.”

Writer and political analyst Nanjala Nyabola, who has written about “digital democracy and analogue politics,” cautioned that more checks and balances against rising digital scrutiny is required. However, businessman Mo Ibrahim, whose company oversees governance in Africa said: “If nobody knows you are born or nobody knows you died, who are you? You’re a nobody,” arguing that the advantages of digitization surpass privacy issues.