Cross-border transactions among African countries were hitherto fraught with a myriad of challenges chief amongst which was the absence of an efficient payment system that supports such trades.
The absence of a single currency through which goods and services can be traded is a major challenge for trans-Africa trade.
The mere fact that the continent has approximately 42 individual currencies made it very difficult to conduct business across borders.
The only option for African businesses that needed to trade across the region was through their local banks who used correspondent banks – often outside of Africa – to settle payments between two African currencies in a third, external currency, usually dollars or Euros.
The previous system also created foreign exchange and liquidity challenges for individual African Central and commercial Banks.
The ordeal cross-border traders on the African continent had to go through made trading across African countries unattractive to many businessmen because it was both cumbersome and time-consuming and quite expensive.
The introduction of the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) also meant that African countries needed to find ways to facilitate seamless trade among themselves. All the talk of a borderless continent with the largest market in the world trading freely would have been a mirage without the necessary structures that anchor a true free trade area.
It is within this framework that the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) is not only revolutionary but also that quintessential tool that allows Africa to pivot and scale its intra-trade potential. PAPSS is a centralized payment and settlement system for intra-African trade that enables the efficient flow of money securely across African borders, minimizing risk and contributing to financial integration across the regions.
The system leverages digital technology to offer a secure, efficient, and cost-effective platform for cross-border transactions.
It enables the efficient flow of money securely across African borders, minimizing risk, contributing to financial integration, and works in collaboration with Africa’s central banks to provide a payment and settlement service for commercial banks and payment service providers across the various trading blocs or regions.
PAPSS addresses the historic challenges of making payments across African borders, adding value through a common African market infrastructure for all stakeholders, from governments, banks and payment providers to corporates, small enterprises, and individuals.
PAPSS is expected to reduce the costs and accelerate the settlement and payment of trade transactions. It is a true game changer for intra-African trade that will potentially save businesses across the continent USD 5 billion in transactions costs each year.
Indeed, the PAPSS when fully implemented will redefine the payment ecosystem on the African continent. The benefits of PAPSS will permeate all levels of the socio-economic lives of individual African countries.
Governments and central banks connecting with the PAPSS will benefit from the easing of the pressure on foreign currency accounts and decrease foreign exchange liquidity challenges and increase transparency, which will bring greater oversight of cross-border transactions, creating more confidence in the system.
There will also be enhanced financial inclusion and improved economic growth due to money-saving quality of the PAPSS.
Businesses and individuals will also benefit from instant payments across African countries without converting to different currencies and also have improved working capital through payment certainty and faster transactions. Businesses will further have access to different payment facilitating options which could help them scale their businesses.
With regard to the operations of commercial banks on the continent, feedback from the market has shown that banks who use PAPSS want to have more settlement models to better serve them and their customers.
At Standard Bank/Stanbic Bank, we believe Africa is our home and we have a pivotal role to play in driving her growth.
Our vision to become the leading financial services organisation in Africa, delivering exceptional client experiences and superior value has found expression in our work on the continent over the years. Through the ever-changing expectations and needs of clients and businesses on the continent, Standard Bank has remained resolute in being the bank that continuously drives Africa’s growth.
Our obligation has been to help our clients navigate the diverse African landscape to realise their dreams through our reach, deep insight and expertise about Africa, and innovative thinking.
We are a critical catalyst for economic change in all countries where we operate. This lies at the core of our purpose to develop commercially sound ways to address the environmental and social challenges experienced in our countries of operation, thereby accelerating economic growth, human development and making a better life for all Africans.
Our purpose for driving Africa’s growth also means courting the right partnerships that provide the continent the impetus for growth. The bank has been consistent in working with different actors seeking to make inroads in Africa to develop strategies, based on our expertise and experience on the continent, that make it easier for them to operate effectively on the continent.
We believe we can make a meaningful, positive impact on Africa’s growth by partnering with institutions that share this commitment.
It is in this regard that the bank is collaborating with PAPSS to improve the overall landscape of payments in Africa and identify ways to facilitate the payment and settlement of cross-border transactions especially in the various countries in which the bank has presence.
Through the partnership with PAPSS, Standard Bank will ensure the participation of Fintechs and extend the system to all its digital channels and collaborate with PAPSS on marketing roadshows and other events.
Our partnership with PAPSS, is not just as an opportunity to consolidate our position as the leading trade and payment bank but also as a leading cross-border payments bank across the markets where we operate.