Abraham Allero (left), president of Berhan Bank, and Getahn Mekuriab (PhD), minister of Education, show slides at the launching of Berhan's new school pay system at its headquarters on September 9, 2020.

Berhan Bank, one of the youngest private commercial banks, has launched a new electronic payment solution for schools, joining the latest national move in digitalising services and payments.

The Bank's payment system is integrated with its latest version of the core banking system dubbed Rubikon Core Banking System. The payment system integrates the account of the school with the identification number of students, enabling parents to pay school fees digitally. Dubbed Berhan School Pay, the system was developed in August 2019 by 10 staff members of the Bank.

The entire process of developing the system took one month, but testing and piloting, as well as consulting with parents and schools, took a year.  The Bank officially launched the solution last week at the premises of the Bank on Africa Avenue with the presence of Getahun Mekuria (PhD), minister of Education and the former minister of Innovation & Technology.

Over the past couple of months, the government has been working on digitising government services and introducing electronic transactions. A few months ago, the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) crafted a National Payment Strategy that lays out infrastructure to enable users to make financial transactions using the accounts and payment instruments issued by financial institutions.

Eth-Switch S.C., an entity owned by a consortium of all banks including the central bank, is currently working on Point of Sale (PoS) and mobile account-to-account interoperability, a system that enables financial and non-financial institutions to work with or use the parts or equipment of another system. The parliament has also approved the e-transaction law that supports the government and private institutions to offer e-commerce and e-government services.

"Berhan's school fee solution can also play a considerable role in the national effort to digitise payments," said Abraham Alero, president of the Bank.

So far, Berhan School Pay has enrolled 13 schools and 21,404 students. With the system, parents can transfer the school fee of their kids online at their convenience using each student's identification card.

Normally, student registration used to take a day or half a day for parents, according to Abraham.

Ethio National School, located in Aqaqi Qality District, has operated for over two decades and currently has over 5,000 students. It was the first school to begin using the system a year ago.

There were crowds at the premises of the school during registration, according to Misganaw Girma, operations manager at Ethio National.

"We also experienced angry parents who faced penalty fees for delaying monthly school fees," he told Fortune. "With the rising COVID-19 pandemic, Berhan's payment solution helped the school to secure the safety of parents."

This alone will not solve all of the problems of parents, according to Tewodros Tassew, a fintech expert with over a decade of experience.

The interoperability among the banks is essential to simplifying the process of payments to institutions, according to him.

People use different banks and in order to get the service one has to withdraw from one bank and go to the other bank to deposit the money, according to Tewodros.

"Therefore, services will be easier for users if banks are able to give interconnected service," he said.

Berhan is also working on launching payment solutions for e-government bills such as tax payments, and it is waiting for approval from the central bank to embark on the service, according to Wossen Alemeye, chief information officer at Berhan, which was established in 2009 with a paid-up capital of 95.7 million Br raised from 1,000 shareholders. The Bank boosted its paid-up capital to two billion Birr with close to 15,000 shareholders during the 2018/19 fiscal year.

"We're also negotiating with the water authority to collect water bills this way," Wossen said.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 11,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1063]

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