!Gawaxab: ‘Banks must be affordable’

Promote financial inclusion

12 May 2021 | Banking

It is an opportune time to re-create a payments ecosystem that is inclusive and that allows for affordable and accessible payment services and products. – Johannes !Gawaxab, Governor: BoN

Jo-Maré Duddy - While ensuring a financial sector at the cutting edge of the technological revolution, banks should not be oblivious to perceptions of high banking charges and fees, whether these are perceived or real.

“We need to do something about it,” the governor of the Bank of Namibia (BoN), Johannes !Gawaxab, said yesterday.

!Gawaxab made the remarks as the chief executive officer of Letshego Holdings Namibia, Ester Kali, handed over the leadership of the Bankers Association of Namibia (BAN) to new president Martha Murorua, the chief executive officer of Nedbank Namibia.

According to the BoN’s Financial Stability Report April 2021, the banking sector’s total operating income, interest excluded, amounted to N$3.7 billion last year, up N$63 million from 2019. The BoN said the increase was driven by transaction-based fees.

!Gawaxab yesterday said: “With the dawn of a new vision, coupled with the current and foreseeable socio-economic challenges, it is an opportune time to re-create a payments ecosystem that is inclusive and that allows for affordable and accessible payment services and products.” He added: “Economic agents in the informal sector and rural areas, in particular, need this.”

INTEREST RATES

Commenting on the current low interest rate environment, !Gawaxab said the debate on the issue remained “an intriguing one”.

“It is not a zero-sum game as some would have us believe. In my considered view it should also be good for banks. Yes, it has led to margin compression and it is unusual, but it can also allow commercial banks to leverage deposits and duration,” he said.

!Gawaxab said the handing over of the BAN leadership baton is taking place amidst the Covid-19 pandemic “that has upended the ways we work and live”.

“For the industry, business models and operations have been revamped, reflecting current and future realities. This while contending with a low inflation and interest rate environment and an economy that is trying to recover,” he said.

For the BoN, !Gawaxab said, “it is not business as usual as we balance the need for smart regulation and supervision on the one hand, with promoting financial stability in order to mitigate the risks that may be introduced, on the other”.

‘TECHNOLOGY ENABLES’

The financial system should be efficient and modern, while promoting financial inclusion.

“I can see three things colliding at the moment: SMS and texting, content and payments. This collision allows a product to be advertised and marketed, and sold, and paid for. One can also interpret what customers think about a product through this collision. So, it is all about data production and processing,” according to !Gawaxab.

He added: “The time is ripe for innovation that assist to leverage digital breakthroughs to achieve the noble objective of financial inclusion and deepening and development of the financial sector.