Innovative Company to Help the Poor

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By Frederick Philander The new Smart Switch Namibia one-card banking service is a revolutionary way and manner to assist the poorest of the poor in the country. This is the view of the chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Net 1, Dr Serge Belamant, who spelled out the policies of a joint-venture business between NamPost and his own international company on Tuesday evening. “In my estimation there are four billion people in the world that do not have access to financial services due to poverty, considered to be the so called ‘unbankables’ by the traditional banking service providers. Most of these people are constantly looking for recognition, employment, ways to educate their children, but for all intents and purposes they don’t exist in the eyes of the banking world,” Belamant, a scientist by profession, told those present at the launch of the new banking service company of which Martin Shipanga is the chairperson. In his opinion poverty is a very sad state of affairs in the world with the majority of people not possessing anything. “Traditional financial services are so designed that it only serves the top ten percent of the world population, ignoring the plight and needs for banking services of the poor. That is why I years ago designed the technology to assist the not so well educated people to hold on to the little money they have. “Therefore, the smart card system is so designed to provide in the desperate needs of such people who have gotten themselves into a debt spiral from which they cannot escape. The smart card system is aimed at getting them out of the spiral. “The smart card allows poor people to obtain credit,” said Belamant, who is of the opinion that the new system will be embraced by most Namibians who can basically be debt free in six months because of the affordable services offered them. According to him the time has come for big businesses to redefine their social and moral obligations towards populations. “We charge cardholders very little or no fees and at the same time we offer a channel and an opportunity to the financial service industry to access people at a fee. This might sound socialistic and even communistic in nature, but if one wants to address the perpetual poverty situation in the world, one needs to take certain steps. Undoubtedly, we want to make money but at the same time make a difference to the benefit of the poor,” Belamant, who indicated that Net 1 has a contract to operate on these lines and principles in the United States to the tune of U$14 billion with the Bush Administration, said. The CEO of Net 1 was also confident that big businesses in the country would invest in the new company in Namibia.