All 13 commercial banks in Sierra Leone have agreed to introduce the electronic interbank payment system (Switch) by October 2012 as a part of the African Development Bank-funded West African Monetary Zone Payments System Development Project.

In an interview with local press, the executive secretary and chief operating officer of the Sierra Leone Association of Commercial Banks SLACB, Phillip H. Swaray, said the first switch debit or credit card would be in use by then.

SLACB has shortlisted five companies from which one will be selected as a partner to manage the payment system for banks. The system interconnects ATMs (automated teller machines), points of sale, and the like to speed financial transactions. The system also allows an ATM card from one bank to work at cash machines of other banks in the country.

In 2008, SBTS Group, a software services and applications provider in Sierra Leone, set out to introduce an e-payment network under the Switch Associates brand, but the project was not completed.

While presenting the 2011 budget to the parliament last November, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Samura Kamara said the move to the Switch system would be accomplished this year to deepen the financial sector and minimize the use of cash.

"The Switch will provide a common platform" that will "enhance the speed, efficiency and security of financial transactions including payment of utility bills and revenue collection all over the country," he has said.