Regional Payments Integration, Financial Inclusion, and Remittances in the SADC – Written by Elizabeth McQuerry & Cici Northup, Glenbrook Partners
Improved availability of affordable digital financial services is a pressing need in developing economies. This need is also acute for cross-border payments, both generically, and for the growing number of regional integration efforts such as the Payments Project under way in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This white paper provides a third-party perspective on the SADC Payments Project to date to incorporate low-cost remittances. The outcomes are insightful not only for those interested in the SADC region, but also for other regions that are contemplating a shared payments system.
The SADC Payments Project is not the first regional payments integration effort nor the most ambitious in scope. Nevertheless, it is a challenging initiative if only for the vast differences in payments system development among the participating countries. Additionally, there are other notable characteristics at play: The initiative is a top-down mandate implemented by the private sector, there is a shared industry utility operating with multilateral rules, multiple payment streams are under contemplation, and both bank and non-bank providers of payment services are participants. The combination of these factors—alongside the financial inclusion objectives—most certainly qualifies the SADC regional payments initiative as a noteworthy undertaking.