18 June 2012

Namibia: Banks Face Deadline for Basic Accounts

ALL commercial banks in Namibia will have to offer a basic bank account (BBA) for individuals earning N$2 000 or less by the end of October this year.

The Bank of Namibia (BoN) announced this deadline on Friday as part of the country's drive to give Namibians better access to financial services. The FinScope Consumer Survey 2012 showed that 31 per cent of Namibia are currently excluded from financial services compared to 51 per cent in 2007.

Ndangi Katoma, the BoN's director for strategic communications and financial sector development, said the standards for the BBA was set in consultation with the local banking industry and will be offered by all branches of all commercial banks in Namibia by October 31.

People opening a BBA will not have to provide proof of their income. Anybody earning N$2 000 or less per month will be eligible for such an account, provided they can provide a minimum of N$20 as an opening balance and maintain that balance.Banks will not be allowed to charge BBA holders a monthly fee or account management fee, and will also not charge a cash fee on the first N$2 000 deposited per month.

In addition, banks won't charge for the first bank card issued. Banks will have to offer a debit card service for which they can charge. These debit cards will allow for ATM and Point of Sale (POS) transactions.

Banks can charge fees on BBAs for cash withdrawals, outgoing debit order services and mini statements from ATMs. However, electronic deposits will be free, as will internet banking services of the same bank.

BBA holders won't qualify for cheque books, and accounts will only be regarded as dormant if there hasn't been any activity for a year.

Katoma said the BBA initiative is in line with the financial sector strategy and the BoNs key strategic focus areas and plan until 2016.

He said banks will "actively monitor" BBAs to "ensure that those targeted benefit from this product".

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