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News Round-up: SME leaders looking for self-improvement, Visa aims to drive digital payments in Africa, small business owners working beyond retirement age

Here are the week’s main news stories in the world of small business and digital payments:

Two-thirds of SME leaders plan to improve skills

The majority of UK SME leaders have plans to improve their skills in 2020, according to new research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance. The research found that 69 per cent were planning on attending courses next year, with leaders in the legal (85 per cent), manufacturing (82 per cent) and transport (73 per cent) sectors the most likely to commit to training. The top development area is digital skills, with 38 per cent of business leaders looking to train saying they want to improve their knowledge of software, the internet and social media. Marketing and PR was also a big consideration for 28 per cent of business leaders. Similarly, with a clearer position on Europe potentially around the corner, 25 per cent would now like professional guidance on the likely impact of Brexit on their business.

Visa partners for digital payments across Africa

Visa and pan-African fintech MFS Africa have partnered to bring digital payments to more consumers and businesses across Africa and address the growing gap between the mobile money ecosystem in the continent and the rest of the world. The partnership will allow Visa to expand its reach and ability to open e-commerce to the region. Despite mobile money wallets being common, they do not have virtual or physical network credentials, making many international online services unavailable to users. The partnership will see Visa’s payment credentials distributed across several markets in Africa. This will allow users on the platform to generate an instant Visa virtual card with a 16-digit number and link it to their mobile money accounts.

Canada sees decline in cash payments

Cash payments in Canada declined 40 per cent in volume over the last five years, according to a recent report from payment clearing and settlement system provider Payments Canada. According to the report, Canadians are rapidly adopting newer digital channels, such as contactless, e-commerce, mobile and online transfers, over cash. Electronic payments accounted for 73 per cent of total payments volume in 2018, and 59 per cent of total payments value. The report also revealed that contactless payments grew 30 per cent year-in-year, with a total of 4.1 billion contactless payments (card and mobile) worth C$129.9 billion at point-of-sale. Mobile devices were used by nearly 35 per cent of Canadians for contactless payments on a regular basis in 2018.

140,000 small business owners working past retirement age

More than 140,000 directors of small companies are running their business past the retirement age of 66, according to a study by accountants UHY Hacker Young. One in five company directors are aged 66 or over, showing how work patterns have shifted over the years. Individuals are also becoming less likely to stay in one job for long periods of time, with the average worker changing their job every five years, it was estimated. One factor could be that the outcome of Brexit could make it more difficult for directors to sell a small business quickly, said UHY Hacker Young’s James Price.

Subsidy scheme boosts cashless payments in Japan

Government subsidies designed to encourage cashless payments in Japan are being taken up much more quickly than predicted, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommending that the country extends the scheme. Under the initiative, consumers earn shopping points worth up to five per cent of a purchase’s value for using non-cash payment methods – including credit cards – at registered SMEs. The government has also started providing subsidies to stores to install cashless payment equipment. In contrast to many neighbouring East Asian states, Japan remains relatively reliant on cash.

Ghana looking at national digital currency

Ghana’s central bank is considering issuing a national digital currency called the e-cedi as a result of the growth in mobile money transactions. The central bank is planning a pilot project for the e-cedi which could launch “in the near future”, according to Bank of Ghana governor Ernest Addison. Adopting a national digital currency would align with the government’s efforts to maintain a digital financial landscape. The total value of all mobile money transactions in Ghana reached $29 billion in 2017, compared to $6.5 billion in 2015. Around 1.4 billion mobile money transactions were made in 2018, up from 982 million in 2017. Ghana is one of Africa’s leading economies, with a GDP growth rate of around 6.3 percent in 2018.

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News Round-up: SME leaders looking for self-improvement, Visa aims to drive digital payments in Africa, small business owners working beyond retirement age
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