Charter row ‘may hurt bid to extend banking'

By Staff Writer

From Business Day

Regis Nyamakanga
Financial Services Editor

CEO Mark Napier said the number of adults who were banked had grown
last year to 60% from 51% a year before. This meant that 19-million
out of an adult population of 31,6-million now had accounts.

The growth in access to banking has been bolstered by a sharp rise in
the use of bank accounts in the black low-income segment. Last year
alone, 3-million people opened bank accounts, swelling the number of
those banked by 20%, he said.

"Unquestionably, (FNB's) m zansi accounts were a driving force behind
this increase. One in 10 adult South Africans now has an m zansi account,
well over a million more than in 2006," Napier said.

Napier was presenting the FinScope survey for last year, which is used to
establish benchmarks for the use of, and access to, financial services in
the local market .

The mzansi account was launched in 2004, in line with the banking sector's
commitments in the financial sector charter, to help improve access to
financial products and services by the poor.


But dithering over the future of the charter could dash the sector's hope
of further penetrating the unbanked market. The charter, which was scheduled
to be aligned to the trade and industry department's codes of good practice
on e mpowerment in February, was thrown into limbo after parties to it failed
to agree on future levels of black ownership. The charter is now expected to be gazetted in August.


"The charter had a huge impact in improving access to financial services in SA. If it is not gazetted in its present form, the focus of getting financial products and services to the poor will be lost," Napier said.


The FinScope survey showed that asset insurance had increased from 9% in 2006 to 11% last year.

"Car insurance figures have remained static despite a 20% increase in car ownership, highlighting the increasing number of uninsured cars on the road," it read.


The survey found that half of the adult population "tried to save regularly" while 46% worried that they would not have saved enough money for old age. The number of adults with retirement funds rose from 10% in 2006 to 13% last year.


The survey showed that housing conditions had improved, with 77% of the population now living in a brick house, up from 71% in 2006.


South Africans were becoming wealthier, with the average household income increasing 14%, from R4200 to R4800. Access to basic amenities had also increased.


"Despite increased wealth, household sizes are increasing, requiring income to stretch from an average household size of 4,8 in 2006 to 5,2 last year. The number of children in the household also continued to increase in spite of the declining birth rate, (showing) that many families are caring for children who are not their own," the report said.

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