Zambians will soon enjoy the benefits of reduced financial transaction charges and fees once the National Financial Switch (NFS) platform is fully implemented, says Zambia Electronic Clearing House Limited board chairperson Dr Bwalya Ng’andu.

The establishment of the NFS started in 2014 as a project under the auspices of the Zambia Electronic Clearing House Limited, a company owned by the BoZ and commercial banks, but operates as an independent entity, whose objective is to provide interbank clearing and payment services in the country.

The NFS project has been implemented as a two-phased project, with phase one involving the switching of ATM and Point of Sale (PoS) transactions from the VISA platform to the NFS platform, while phase two will involve switching mobile payments transactions.

Prior to this migration, all domestic card transactions were switched outside the country and treated as international transactions and were accordingly priced as such.

But as result of the migration locally, all domestic ATM transactions by various commercial banks are now being switched or carried on the NFS platform with effect from September, 2018.

This means that debit or credit card holders can now transact on any of the 14 banks’ ATMs countrywide and their transactions will be switched locally through the NFS following a successful trial period for the implementation of the ATM phase of the project.

Speaking during the official launching of the going live of the NFS, Zambia’s first-ever local nationwide shared platform, which will facilitate for interoperability of digital payments throughout the country, Dr Ng’andu announced that the two-phased project had completed its first phase of connecting ATM and Point of Sale (PoS) transactions from the VISA platform to the NFS.

Dr Ng’andu, who is also Bank of Zambia (BoZ) governor for operations, explained that upon its full implementation, the NFS would bring about a wide range of benefits, which would include reduced bank charges and fees, among several others.

“When fully implemented, the NFS will bring about a wide range of benefits, which will include among others: reduced fees and charges to customers because of the removal of international switching fees; convenient, easy access and usage of electronic payment systems (ATM, PoS, Mobile) through multiple access points countrywide; providing for near real time confirmation/validation of payment information and delivery of value to the customer – this will reduce delays in customers receiving funds or money or reduce time and costs for processing customer transactions,” Dr Ng’andu announced at the central bank in Lusaka, Wednesday.

He noted that the NFS platform would allow for faster circulation of funds in the local economy.

“…Allow for faster circulation of funds in the economy due to the reduced delays in customers receiving funds; increased volumes of transactions, which can be processed on one single platform, which will be expected to result in lower costs, thereby, making payment transactions more affordable; and increased financial inclusion through greater access and usage of financial services,” he added.

“The full implementation will be major milestone and will fundamentally transform the way we conduct business in Zambia with great benefits accruing to the economy as a whole.”

And he announced that completion of phase two was likely to occur by the end of this year where mobile phone transactions would equally be enhanced.

“The implementation of this phase is already underway and it is expected to be completed by the end of the year. With its completion, customers will be able to send money or make payments using their phone or other mobile devices, such as tablets to any other recipient regardless of which mobile network they subscribe to,” said Dr Ng’andu.

“Further, since the switch will interconnect with banks, non-bank financial institutions and other payment system service providers, customers will be able to transact: from a mobile money wallet to any other mobile money wallet; from a mobile money wallet to a bank account and vice versa.”