More can be done to ensure access to banking

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pretoria - Technology can play a bigger role in ensuring that more South Africans have access to banking services, says Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

"Technological advances have made mobile banking solutions a reality and made it possible to have viable points of banking presence, even in deep rural areas. These innovations must surely make it possible to bank more than 70% of adult South Africans by 2013," Gordhan said on Tuesday at a banking summit held in Johannesburg.

He acknowledged that there has been an improvement in the number of adult South Africans who use banks, from 51% in 2006 to 63% in 2010. However, he said more can be done, especially with the innovative developments that have been undertaken by banking institutions. He called for these to be reinforced and speeded up.

The minister said that while the South African financial sector must be congratulated in ensuring the country's resilience to the 2008 financial meltdown, the domestic banking sector still faces several challenges.

"However, due to the interconnectedness in the global financial system, South Africa remains vigilant in order to mitigate any financial stability risks."

Financial inclusion was one of the challenges the minister touched on. "The pace and scale of the sector's financial inclusion efforts is something I hope you will reflect upon a lot more."

He said it was also important that the country creates diversity in banking in order to achieve healthy levels of competition.

The South African banking sector can contribute to the economy by lending to small and medium sized businesses.

"These businesses are the largest employment creators in any economy. Our view is that the domestic [banking sector] can do more to support these businesses," he said.

The minister added that he would like to see a reduction in banking fees.

"We plan to have further engagements with the industry in this regard."

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