Central Bank issues standards to guide QR code payments for consumers and businesses

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), has announced the issuance and implementation of the Kenya Quick Response Code Standard 2023 (KE-QR Code Standard 2023; or the Standard). The Standard will guide how Payment Service Providers and banks (institutions) that are regulated by the CBK will issue Quick Response (QR) Codes to consumers and businesses that accept digital payments.

QR Codes are machine-readable code consisting of an array of black and white squares containing information that provide an alternative option for initiating and accepting digital payments made by customers at various points of sale, such as supermarkets, general stores, shops, among other outlets. The implementation of the Standard, and use of standardised QR Code-enabled payments, will bring practical benefits to businesses and customers. Customers will now be able to make digital payments in an easy, fast, convenient, and secure manner using QR.

Previously, customers had to manually input different payment codes and numbers, hence creating friction and cumbersome payment processes that are prone to errors. The Standard will also promote inclusion by enabling institutions of various sizes and customer focus to increase adoption digital payments. In the long-term, use of standardised QR Codes will facilitate launch of innovative products and deepen the benefits already enjoyed by customers making payments across various institutions and mobile money networks (interoperability).

The Standard, which is based on the EMVCo QR Code Specification, has been developed through collaboration between CBK, Payment Service Providers, banks, card schemes, among others. The Standard will be rolled out in a phased approach as these players align their operations to requirements set out in the Standard and increase customer awareness. Issuance of the Standard marks an important step in the implementation of the National Payments Strategy 2022 – 2025.

The KE-QR Code Standard provides guidance on how data should be presented by the merchant including what fields are mandatory/optional. Customer scanning apps must interpret the data according to this standard. The Standard is based on the international standards adopted from EMV QR Code Specification for Payment Systems (EMV QRCPS).

The Standard provides a unified mechanism for presentation and capture of merchant information, to facilitate faster and convenient payments by consumers.
The Code will be presented by the payee (the merchant) and scanned by the payer (the consumer). All transactions using the standard will be initiated by the consumer through scanning the Code presented by the merchant. The Code will not contain any customer information but will only represent: Merchant Information (that is the merchant’s business name, location, payment credentials e.g., till number, pay bill number, etc, and industry segment for purpose of payments. This will allow for the merchant to be properly identified and will simplify the consumer experience by correctly identifying the recipient of the payment) and 3.2.3 Transaction Value Information (that is the transaction currency and amount as well as provide for additional information fields such as convenience fees and tip amounts, where these values must be correctly captured into the final transaction value).

“When scanning the Code, customer privacy is protected; personal information such as mobile numbers, identity numbers and email addresses are not exchanged with the merchant by default. Where additional data exchange includes consumer personal information, the payment service provider will comply with the Data Protection Act 2019. Such personal information may include customer mobile number(s) or email (for example, for the purpose of delivering e-vouchers),” reads the KE-QR Code Standard guidelines.

“Customers will be onboarded by their payment service providers as per the existing mobile banking or mobile money wallet onboarding processes. QR codes will be scanned using customers’ smartphone applications provided to them by their payment service providers.”

The Strategy was launched in February 2022 to, among other things, support the adoption of key standards and align Kenya’s National Payment System to global best practice. With the launch of the QR Standard, Kenya is joining other leading markets that have implemented the standardized approach to issuing QR codes for facilitating payments. These countries include, Philippines, Jordan, South Africa, Singapore, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, India, and China.

The QR Code Standard aligns with the National Payments Strategy 2022-2025 objectives, including trust, security, usefulness, choice, and innovation. It also aligns with the strategy’s vision of a secure, fast, efficient, and collaborative payments system that supports financial inclusion and innovations that benefit Kenyans.


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