Malawian banks to centralise ATMs

By Gregory Gondwe, Lilongwe, Malawi

Auto-teller machines (ATMs) for Malawian banks are set to be linked to the same national switch centre, under a USD28.2 million Financial Sector Technical Assistance Project (FSTAP) funded by the World Bank.

The project, which is a joint initiative by the Malawi government in collaboration with Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM), is set to put together a centralised electronic payment system, into which all the computerised commercial banking systems will feed.

This will allow all customers of commercial banks in the country to access their money with their ATM cards at any bank.

The project is as a result of a 2008 World Bank-International Monetary Fund Financial Sector Assessment report which spelt out the need for Malawi to expand and improve access to finance following financial demand survey for Malawi of the same year, which established that only 26 per cent of the adult population is served by the formal financial institutions.

Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), which will be manning the centralized electronic payment system, launched the five-year project last week.

“The project is the bank's key intervention to improve the country's financial sector with more access to services among rural Malawians,” said RBM Deputy Governor Mary Nkosi during the launch.

She indicated that the project will increase financial inclusion and build supervisory and operational capacity by the government and the financial institutions for easy access to financial services.

FSTAP Project Manager MacDonald Mwale said the national switch centre will facilitate increased financial inclusion in the country.

He said the project will completely change the financial sector perception.

“It is going to strengthen the sector while at the same time easing public access to financial services," said Mwale.

This is in agreement with the World Bank vision for Malawi through the Financial Sector Technical Assistance Project.

The bank says the project aims to increase access to finance for the currently unbanked, but bankable, population of Malawi.

The World Bank said there are five components to the project, the first component being financial sector regulation and supervision.

Through the centralised system, the bank says RBM will be able  to strengthen the national financial sector regulation and supervision framework for banking, capital markets, microfinance, and the insurance and pension industries by financing a combination of reporting, diagnostic, and capacity building technical assistance activities.

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