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SBP launches online payment system for merchants

By Our Correspondent
December 06, 2023

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Tuesday launched a new online payment system that will allow businesses and retailers to accept payments from their customers instantly, as part of its efforts to promote digital financial inclusion and innovation in the country.

“As part of the Raast implementation project, SBP has now also launched an interoperable Raast P2M service to facilitate digital payment acceptance for merchants and businesses,” the State Bank of Pakistan said in a circular.

In this picture, the State Bank of Pakistan building in Karachi can be seen. — SBP website
In this picture, the State Bank of Pakistan building in Karachi can be seen. — SBP website

“The P2M service will enable Payment acceptance by businesses using Quick Response (QR) Codes, Raast Alias, IBAN, and Request to Pay (RTP). In this regard, technical specifications have already been shared with concerned teams of the REs [regulated entities].”

The SBP said the Raast P2M service is expected to quicken the pace of digitisation of merchant and business transactions in Pakistan. It has been decided that all REs shall

enable some capabilities for processing P2M transactions via their delivery channels, including mobile apps, internet banking portals, and USSD channels (where applicable) by March 1, 2024.

The Raast merchant service providers (MSPs) must make sure of onboard companies after carrying out due diligence in compliance with applicable rules and regulations, such as merchants, aggregators, marketplaces, and billers, among others.

Earlier, the central bank had already launched person-to-person (P2P) and bulk payment transfers on Raast.

Raast's initial adoption has gone very well. More than 32 million account holders have enrolled with Raast thus far, and 225 million transactions totaling more than Rs4.6 trillion have been completed on the Raast platform, according to data from the SBP.

Raast, an instant payment system of Pakistan, will be integrated in the coming months with Buna, a cross-border payment system of the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), to facilitate remittances in real-time between Pakistan and the Gulf region.

Earlier this month, the AMF and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Abu Dhabi to establish a framework of cooperation between Buna, which is operated by the Arab Regional Payments Clearing and Settlement Organization (ARPCSO) and supported by all central banks in the region, and Pakistan’s Raast.

The central bank has developed a robust digital financial services ecosystem, with the implementation and rollout of Raast and the issuance of digital banks’ licensing framework being the most notable initiatives.

The journey will continue with more vigor and focus towards the development and strengthening of a digital financial services ecosystem that serves all segments of our economy, including consumers, low-income population, household women, home-based workers, and micro and small enterprises, said the SBP vision 2028.

“The digital payments will be made as convenient, efficient, and cost-effective as cash. The coverage of Raast will be expanded to almost all retail as well as bulk payments, with its P2P, P2M, and bulk payment modules,” it said.

The five digital banks currently completing the licensing requirements after obtaining the in-principle approval from SBP, will also be instrumental in expanding the depth and breadth of digital financial services in the country.