The conference is organised under the African Postal Financial Services Initiative, a joint regional programme launched by the International Fund for Agricultural Development in collaboration with other development partners.
A statement made available to journalists by Ifad explained: “Each year more than 60 billion dollars in remittances is sent to and within Africa but often at great expense. Finding ways to leverage this powerful financial and development force by making remittance services more affordable and accessible to rural people is the focus of the first African Conference on Remittances and Postal Networks, 4-5 March in Cape Town, South Africa, hosted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad).
“Over two days, some 100 delegates from postal operators, postal banks, regulatory authorities, governments, the private sector, international organisations, civil society and others involved in the remittance market from across Africa will focus on addressing the challenges for improving the provision of remittance and financial services through postal networks in rural Africa, and share experiences and solutions. Among the topics to be covered by the conference are market positioning of postal operators, linking remittances with financial inclusion, innovative technologies for financial inclusion, and the legal and institutional environment affecting post offices and remittances.
According to Ifad, remittances make a major contribution to the incomes of rural households in many African countries including The Gambia.
The statement further maintained: “But at the same time, a dearth of services, lack of competition and other causes also make rural remittances enormously expensive. Similarly, high transaction costs, limited rural payment networks, low financial literacy and consumer protection, as well as problematic regulatory environments prevent these financial flows from having greater development impact. Postal networks may have a role to play. More than 80 per cent of post offices in sub-Saharan Africa are located outside the top three cities in each country, in areas where banks are often absent. Post offices are often well placed to deliver remittances in rural areas, but they lack the business model, technology and expertise to process real-time payments in an efficient and safe manner.
“With support from the European Commission, Ifad has been leading a multi-partner African Postal Financial Services Initiative which is providing technical assistance to postal networks in 11 African countries. The goal is to help postal operators offer better transfer services, modernize their payments infrastructure, reduce prices, expand their rural reach, broaden the range of financial services they offer, and market their services more effectively.”]]>