"There is a generation of people growing up in Africa who have a cellphone long before they think of getting a bank account," says BankservAfrica CEO Chris Hamilton. That provides an opportunity for banks to build digital systems from the outset, rather than having to migrate customers into new ways of doing things. BankservAfrica, the largest automated payments clearing house in Africa, and Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), the world's leading provider of secure financial-messaging services, are working to solve a systemic issue that could help SA take advantage of the information age: a better payments system. The existing system is beset with inefficiencies due to old infrastructure, with two fundamental problems: the slow speed of concluding payments; and the capacity to relay only basic information between banks. At an event in Johannesburg in November, the two companies urged the banking industry to invest in modern systems that will allow fo...

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