Photograph — Reuters

On Wednesday, May 3, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) launched the Kenya Quick Response Code Standard 2023 (KE-QR Code Standard 2023; or the Standard) to accelerate digital payment solutions for merchants and consumers nationwide. This latest policy will guide how payment service providers and banks regulated by the CBK issue Quick Response (QR) Codes to consumers and businesses that accept digital payments. Through this move, the Kenyan government wants to promote customer convenience and security while supporting future compatibility amongst different payment service provider platforms.

QR Codes provide a seamless, convenient, and contactless payment process. They are a standard means for data exchange for payment service providers to facilitate faster payment experiences between merchants and customers. QR codes usually contain the merchant’s information such as the merchant’s business name, unique identifiers for merchants’ payment service providers, and transaction details, while offering customers quick access to a business’ web page.

“With the KE-QR code, where necessary, additional data enrichment fields will be utilised to provide more data on transactions for future data analysis and decision-making purposes. Customer privacy will be protected by not exchanging private information such as mobile numbers, identity numbers, and email addresses with the merchant by default,” reads a statement by Dr Patrick Njoroge, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya.

Ghana would not be the first African country to implement a QR code policy in its market. Last year, Ghana’s central bank launched a QR code payment solution with HPS, a Casablanca-based payment solutions provider. The launch made it easy for Ghanaians to make payments to merchants from multiple funding sources including, debit cards, bank accounts and e-wallets. More so, QR code adoption is steadily gaining popularity on the continent due to the increase in fintech and e-commerce startups.

Why is Kenya adopting KE-QR?

Over the years, CBK has implemented various initiatives to improve National Payment System (NPS) in Kenya. Thus, Kenya wants to accelerate its global leadership in digital payments through its latest QR code policy. The QR code policy will simplify payment processes, guarantee safe and secured transactions, and unify payment modes across industries so that customers do not have to memorise different merchant payment numbers at purchase points.

More so, the government is providing this additional payment method in Kenya to increase usability and consumer adoption, harmonise payment structure for local businesses, and provide a secure environment to manage risks associated with the growth of merchant payments linked to QR payment initiation.

Risks of QR code adoption

QR codes are one of the best ways to transact in a market due to the ease it affords stakeholders. But it comes with many risks that could threaten both merchants and customers. Most of these risks are online security risks such as security breaches, device compatibility issues, increased exposure to scammers and malware attacks, lack of data privacy, technical glitches, fraud, etc. 

The Kenyan government is not oblivious to these risks. “To mitigate these risks, measures such as consumer training, improved payment connectivity, increased QR code acceptance, improved QR code security, and clear data handling policies will be implemented,” Njoroge noted. For merchants and customers to ensure their overall safety in the East African market, QR codes should be used strategically and carefully.

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