Sadc seeks integrated bank payments system

By Letuka Chafotsa

MASERU — The banking industry in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region plans to develop banking systems jointly to help modernise transfers under a regional payments project started in July last year.

The Bankers Association of Lesotho under the auspices of the Sadc Bankers Association on Monday hosted a regional session to discuss the Sadc Integrated Regional Electronic Settlement System (SIRESS) and other issues at a local hotel.

“Cooperation among member countries is a key to consumer protection and fraud awareness,” the Chairman of the Bankers Association of Lesotho, Mpho Vumbukani, said.

Arthur Cousins, the coordinator of the regional payments project, said the project would assist individual Sadc countries to define a domestic payment strategy and drive towards regional financial integration.
“The payment service defines a coordinated approach to cross boarder payment taking into consideration the implications for the central banks in the region,” Cousins said.

Cousins said the payment system, which started last year within the Common Monetary Area countries (Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa and Namibia), will be extended to other Sadc countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Malawi next month.

He added that: “SIRESS is an electronic payment system developed by Sadc member states to settle regional transactions among banks within the region in real time.
“It is meant to replace the paper-based instruments such as bank drafts and cheques and facilitate electronic transfers within Sadc member states,” Cousins said.

Cassim Coovadia, the managing director of the Banking Association of South Africa, said they are looking at the development of private sector organisations in the region, specifically at aspects of financial inclusion and initiatives to broaden access.
“Financial inclusion per country includes mobile banking and development of strategies to broaden inclusion,” Coovadia said.

He added that: “Consumer and financial education and training, which includes targeting of youth and children in schools (savings, financial management), would also be pivotal in their role.”

Coovadia said the regional banking association would cooperate to fight financial or bank-related crime such as ATM bombings.

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