Afghanistan Digital Payments and the Rise of AfPay

Posted on Mar 24, 2022 by Ahmad Shakir Wali, Former CTO, Da Afghanistan Bank & Managing Director, Afghanistan Payments System

The Afghanistan Payments System (APS) plays a critical role in the country’s development of digital payment services. As the National e-Payment Switch, one wholly owned by Da Afghanistan Bank (the Central Bank of Afghanistan), APS was spearheading the modernization of retail banking in the country—and was poised to ride that momentum well into the future—when the Afghan government collapsed in August 2021.

Ahmad Shakir Wali, Managing Director of APS at the time of the collapse, shares the story of Afghanistan’s payments evolution and the digital payments infrastructure APS bequeathed to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Where Did the Collapsed Government Leave Digital Payments in Afghanistan?

APS is Afghanistan’s National e-Payment Switch (ANPS) and one of the key components in the country’s financial market infrastructure. It was commissioned in 2010 to facilitate inter- and intra-sector interoperability for payments. APS had evolved into a government payments aggregator when I joined in August 2020, with four banks connected of the 12 banks operating in the country. It succeeded in connecting all banks, MNOS, MFIs, PIs, and customs and government revenue systems in 2020 in an extraordinary effort involving Governor Ajmal Ahmady of Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) and President Ghani.

APS had fully achieved its objective in 2020–2021 of integrating all key players to create a resilient payments ecosystem. These integrations included all banks, mobile network operators (MNOs), micro-finance institutions (MFIs), payment institutions (PIs), custom payments, and government revenue systems. Following completion of the integration ...

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