MASERU — Lesotho Post Bank (LPB) chief executive officer, Mpho Vumbukani, says the bank will introduce a debit card system to replace the current book system in December.
Vumbukani was addressing a press conference at the sidelines of the the two-day World Savings Bank Institute Africa Regional group conference which began in Maseru on Tuesday.
The conference, whose theme was Transformation of African Savings Banks: building on core assets to enlarge the customer base, was called to discuss problems affecting savings banks in Africa.
Vumbukani said LPB had received US$300 000 from the WSBI to help implement the switch-over from the book system to the electronic system.
“The grant funding will assist Lesotho Post Bank to implement the electronic transactions that will double the number of clients once it is in operation,” Vumbukani said.
He said the Kenyan Post Bank had offered its support through consultants who will help train LPB staff ahead of the introduction of the electronic system.
The consultants from Kenya are expected to start training locals next month.
The consultants, who will include experts in information technology, are expected to work with local LPB staff until the project is up and running, Vumbukani said.
Officially opening the conference, Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Khotso Matla said post banks and savings banks were key institutions that can help African nations to facilitate the provision of financial services to the poor and unbanked population.
“These entities (post banks) operate on the basis of proximity banking, closeness to the customers . . . they therefore promote the one aspect of UN pronouncements on financial inclusiveness,” Matla said.
“In Africa post offices are spread throughout urban and rural areas and effectively provide a very good network that enables provision of services broadly.”
Matla said it was critical for the Lesotho Post Bank to exchange ideas and experiences with other African countries on how best to speed up this technology-driven transformation.
“The need to transform the postal banks and savings bank operations has become much more urgent if they have to operate efficiently and profitably in offering a menu of services that would include, among other things, money transfers and transacting,” Matla said.
Speaking at the same conference WSBI managing director, Chris De Noose, said national savings schemes are the most reliable sources of capital for financing economic development.
“WSBI strongly believes that financial institutions like savings banks . . . are playing a leading role in building inclusive financial systems and supporting sustainable economic development,” de Noose said.
“The role of African savings banks is critical in encouraging savings habits among the population and offering mass market adapted banking services and products.”
“With the emergence of a vibrant microfinance sector and conventional banks deploying downscaling strategies, competition is more vivid for them and has somehow triggered and accelerated the need for reorganisation and reform.
“Despite some doubts and failures, the future of savings banks is however still promising on the continent,” he said.
De Noose however said the implementation of institutional changes, the harnessing of innovations and introduction of new technologies were helping savings and post banks to “reinvent their banking offer”.
The two-day conference also discussed issues related to money laundering, microfinance and the provision of financial services to the poor.
WSBI Africa Group chairperson, Landrick Sianga, urged African banks to co-operate and exchange ideas that will enhance the development of savings and postal banks in Africa.
“We must encourage more regional co-operation and use the existing technological innovations to improve service and coverage among the unbanked population in Africa,” Sianga said.
“We should encourage people to people to invest in their respective countries, and to attract ordinary people to save.
“We need capital injection by governments and other stakeholders. However our services must be convenient and attractive to the people,” he said.
The WSBI is based in Belgium and is regarded as the global voice of savings and retail banks. The organisation is made up of 92 member countries 31 of which are in Africa.
The Lesotho Post Bank joined the WSBI in 2007.