The Common Electronic Fund Transfer Switch (CEFTS) is the real-time payments system in Sri Lanka, launched in August 2015. Although the adoption and usage of real-time payments was initially low, the market gained significant traction in recent years with the extension of CEFTS to support interbank QR code payments and increasing popularity of mobile wallet solutions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
With mobile wallets rapidly displacing low-value cash transactions, real-time payments volume is anticipated to increase at a CAGR of 36.0% from 2021 to 2026. Consequently, their share of the total payments transaction volume is set to rise to 12.3% in 2026 from 3.0% in 2021.
Real-Time Payment Types
Year of Real-Time
The LankaPay real-time payments scheme has been live since 2017 and is an important feature of the government’s drive to increase financial inclusion with fast, convenient and secure mobile-based payments.
The COVID pandemic has seen adoption of the scheme increase significantly, a trend also observed elsewhere in the world. This has prompted regulators to launch a range of initiatives to capitalize on this new momentum by ensuring they maintain an ecosystem that remains affordable for a growing base of participants drawn from all parts of society.
In many ways, this boost to adoption and resulting initiatives is simply making better use of some foundational market factors that have been in place for years. The population has good access to debit and credit cards, although they primarily use them for withdrawing cash and rarely at payment points. They are also keen users of mobile banking to pay utility bills. And digital wallets like DirectPay have enjoyed recent growth that will continue into 2022. On the merchant side of things, point-of-sale architecture for accepting real-time payments is already widely deployed. (However, one of the affordability challenges to tackle is that transaction costs are as high as 3% of the transaction amount.)
The market also has a standardized national QR code format, Lanka QR, which is an advantage for its future growth ambitions, and they are following the lead of many of their regional neighbors (particularly India) by innovating with new use cases around that functionality. Interestingly, and in contrast to neighboring India, Sri Lanka remains a very traditional payments ecosystem with little non-bank participation.
In 2022, the increasing prominence of millennials in the market will see digital payments make big strides towards becoming the norm. As such, the market’s payment players are advised to revisit their payments modernization roadmaps based on the “new normal” born out of the pandemic and this demographic shift. There should be greater appreciation now for the importance of strategies that pre-empt disruption by emphasizing agility and flexibility. Going forward, those attributes will be vital for capitalizing on continued real-time payments growth. The underlying rails are the same for everyone; success comes from getting to market quickly with differentiated added-value services.
Real-Time Total Participants
F5 Yr CAGR
Share of Volumes by Payments Instrument
- Paper-based payments
- Electronic payments
- Real-time payments
Real-Time Payments Volume and Its Share in Overall Non-Paper-Based Transactions, 2015-26f
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