/ 29 September 2008

‘We need to focus on agriculture finance’

Cas Coovadia, managing director of the Banking Association of South Africa, talks to the Mail & Guardian about the industry’s progress.

How are the banks progressing in terms of the financial sector charter as an industry?
Our view is that the industry has done very well generally. We have always indicated that the measure of sustainable transformation that makes a real impact on people’s lives is the targeted investments element of the charter.

We have, according to the 2006 report of the Charter Council, recorded the following results:

  • The banking industry recorded the highest increase in BEE procurement spend between 2005 and 2006.
  • Investment in transformational infrastructure of R1,75-billion in 2005 and R2,9-billion in 2006. The total financial industry spend in 2006 was R9,1-billion.
  • Origination of low-income housing loans of R13,1-billion in 2005 and R25,2-billion in 2006. The financial industry origination in 2006 was R25,7-billion. Our figures at the end of the second quarter of 2008 show origination of R44-billion.
  • Origination of development agriculture loans in 2005 of R167-million and R592-million in 2006. The industry spend was R604-million in 2006.
  • Black SME loans of R5,7-billion in 2005 and R8,9-billion in 2006. The industry spend in 2006 was R9,9-billion.
  • The number of Mzansi accounts opened by the banking sector as at June 30 2008 amounted to 2,9-million.

Have there been any obstacles or difficulties in reaching the goals of the charter?
The deal flow from government in the area of infrastructure has been very slow. We will have difficulty in the low-income housing area in the next few years because of the significant increase in the cost of housing, thus constricting the charter housing market. There are also other significant constraints in the housing supply chain.

Are there areas where the industry has fallen behind and needs more focus?
We need to work with government to look at agriculture finance. We also need to track performance in the employment equity area, although we are making good progress.

As an industry, what steps have the banks taken to increase access to the financial sector?
We are in the process of tracking geographic and electronic access, but can confidently say there has been progress in these areas.

What is the view of the banking industry on increasing direct ownership to 15%?
We have consistently taken the view that the ownership element, detailed in the charter negotiated in the industry, should remain.