Ministry of Tourism’s Travel Visa Now Being Powered By Kanoo
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE Ministry of Tourism’s Bahamas travel visa platform is now being powered by Kanoo, a payment processing company owned by young Bahamian professionals making history.
Through Kanoo, Bahamians can pay for their travel visas with the Sand Dollar, a digital form of Bahamian currency authorised by the Central Bank.
“Sand Dollar is a digital currency, not a cryptocurrency,” explained Nicolas Rees, chairman and co-founder of Kanoo. “Sand Dollar is just a Bahamian dollar. It’s Bahamian legal tender which means it is no different than a physical paper dollar. It’s just an electronic version.
“The payment is a feature that is available to any of our clients and businesses that are on the Kanoo platform. We congratulate the minister and Ministry of Tourism on being the first to officially transact using the Sand Dollar. History in the making.”
Kanoo is a licensed payment service provider and is authorised to issue and transact electronic retail payments and electronic currency.
“This means that we have to operate under specific KYC (know your customer) guidelines, AMI (account management information) guidelines, as well as implement certain security elements and protocols,” Mr. Rees said. “So, this license actually puts us pretty much on par with a banking institution. The only thing we are not authorised to do is hold deposits and issue leverage loans. We do digital currency transactions.
“We had some major improvements and upgrades around Sand Dollar, and new features are continuing to be released.
“That just really highlights what is available. That is our pay with Kanoo feature. Any business can basically drop-in that API into their website, and it can facilitate card payments and also now Sand Dollar.”
Apart from all of this, the Kanoo platform can actually facilitate retail payments for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as well.
Mr. Rees said this part of the business had not been activated as yet. That, he said, is something that, with guidance and approval from Central Bank, will be made available to Kanoo users.
Besides the Ministry of Tourism, Kanoo has about 200 merchant clients, including Super Value and Quality Supermarkets, Grand Bahama Port Authority, and Fresh Markets in Grand Bahama. These clients are ready to accept the Sand Dollar.
Kanoo also has a technology partner: Visikard out of Atlanta, Georgia, owned by Nathan Horne and Kenneth Lipscomb.
“We are focusing right now on launching our marketplace features,” Mr. Rees continued. “We are testing a feature where any Kanoo merchant will have their products, not only in the App Marketplace but also on their websites.
“We are taking that one step further and putting it into a global marketplace – the Kanoo Marketplace where any user can just log on to a web page, and they can search for conch salad or black watches or shoes, etc.”
He explained that the new feature will be comparable to Amazon and will be automatically synced across all platforms. He said payments are automatically built-in, and merchants will have the ability to engage users in providing discounts, incentives, and gift cards.
“That feature is about to be released and will be fully compatible with Sand Dollar and all digital payments,” he continued. “So, we are playing with it now in our ‘sand box’, priming it for release.
“As of March 31, the Central Bank had indicated in one of their previous releases that there was a deadline for the payment institutions to have met their security requirements for interoperability.
“We know that we have surpassed that benchmark and moving on to the next stage where the users will be able to connect their bank accounts to their Sand Dollar wallets held with Kanoo. That will complete the cycle of the digital cash movements, using Kanoo’s platform.”
Kanoo is on to its biggest, planned initiative for the year, which is pushing to take the Family Islands into a cashless zone. Mr. Rees feels this will help to fill the void made by commercial banks who are pulling out of the Family Island market.
“We want to go into those islands and provide the businesses with the platforms so that they can accept payments, credit cards, and Sand Dollar, as well as transact with other merchants digitally and cashless,” he said. “Using the Kanoo system, there is no need now for them to engage in cash handling because everything is tied already to the bank account.
“They can move money in and out of their bank accounts to their Sand Dollar accounts, transact with users and also sell their products and engage users and make more money. So, everything we do is about how do we make merchants make more money, so that is where our focus is … driving value to the merchants and value to our users.”
The Kanoo partnership is made up of financial, technical, and operational professionals.