Access to finance and financial inclusion in Namibia
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study seeks to analyse the financial sector’s (commercial banks and the Bank of Namibia) policy interventions towards creating an inclusive financial system. To achieve this the objective of this study is in three folds, firstly to examine the level and extent of financial inclusiveness in Namibia, secondly to evaluate financial sector (commercial banks and the Bank of Namibia) policies to ascertain their effectiveness in promoting access to finance in Namibia, and thirdly to review international experiences to provide key learning lessons for Namibia’s financial system improvement. It is important that the problems associated with the high level of financial exclusion are understood. Through an analysis of the theoretical information and empirical results it is possible to establish how to improve financial inclusion which is critical for development and economic growth. Financial Inclusion (FI) has become a key pillar of development policy in a number of countries around the world on account of the fact that exclusive development is not sustainable. The paper explored the role of Mobile Money Services (MMS) in enhancing financial inclusion. The study was motivated by the proliferation of mobile phones amongst low income earners, the prepaid billing system sensitive to users’ incomes, adoption of ICT by government and the private sector that has enhanced e-commerce readiness of Uganda, as well as the launch of three Mobile Money Services in the country. A qualitative analysis of the web content of the three MMS providers was undertaken and focused on issues related to services provided; transaction charges; number of registered customers; number and volume of transactions; stakeholders; user interfaces and security; institutional relationships; policy and regulation; as well as appropriateness of the current business model(s). The findings indicate that while the MMS have enormous potential to enhance FI, it would require an open business model that involves all stakeholders to establish a truly national solution. Furthermore, the initial contribution of MMS to FI is in improving money transfer by lowering the transaction costs for small volumes. As a way forward, the regulatory authorities need to establish a legal framework that does not stifle innovation but ensures safety for customers’ savings. From the literature it becomes clear that there are various advantages associated with inclusive financial system. Various studies have demonstrated the positive correlation between financial inclusion and economic growth and poverty alleviation. Most of the data used in the study were collected by means of desk review for secondary data. Various articles and annual reports of commercial banks and regulators were analysed to provide an overview of the current state of financial inclusion in Namibia. However, primary data were also used to analyse the current initiatives of the commercial banks. The study finds that there are policy interventions that are in place and are being pursued by various players aimed at improving the public access to financial services. Results of the recently published FinMark2011 Survey report also indicate that 51 percent of adults are now included in the financial system compared to 31 percent recorded during the 2007 survey. Finally the study’s recommendations highlight various initiatives and activities which different stakeholders should undertake to improve the level of financial inclusion in the economy.