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‘Malawi makes strides in digital payment’

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Onilie Nkuna

Players in the financial sector say they are taking giant leaps on embracing digital payment systems and eliminating traditional means such as cheques, albeit with some challenges.

Both regulator, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and commercial banks’ umbrella body, Bankers Association of Malawi (Bam), say the country is on the right path towards fully digitizing transactions in the sector.

Countries such as eSwatini completely eliminated use of cheques as a step towards embracing digital payment system which are rated as safer, faster and more cost effective.

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In a response to a written questionnaire, RBM spokesperson Onelie Nkuna said digital payments usage was increasing for both large value and retail payment channels offered by banks and non-bank payment service providers.

She said both the policy and operational frameworks are being reviewed to position the country on a similar trajectory as eSwatini, and the initial focus is to introduce a limit on cheque payments as a precursor to an outright cessation of cheque payments.

“We are taking different initiatives to reach there such as provision of an enabling regulatory environment and enhancing the general public’s financial literacy in order to sensitise the masses about the availability and advantages of using digital payments, among others,” she said.

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According to figures from RBM, at the end of last year, Malawi had 233,813 internet bank subscribers, 1,011,954 mobile banking subscribers, and 7,574,506 mobile money subscribers.

In an interview, Bam Chief Executive Officer Lyness Nkungula said commercial banks had reported an increased uptake of digital financial services (DFS).

“We need to move with time. Since this involves a lot of stakeholders, the exercise has to go through the regulator and we believe the needful will be done. Digital platforms are convenient and safer than cash or cheque where signatories could easily be forged,” she added.

As technology evolves, countries are moving towards digital payment systems, which are touted as safer and convenient.

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