By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK “This joint venture of providing electronic banking services to more Namibians represents another success story of the government’s efforts to attract investments, encourage the transfer of appropriate technology and promote economic growth.” So said the Head of State, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, when he on Tuesday evening launched a new financial service company known as Smart Switch Namibia at a hotel in the capital. Smart Switch Namibia is a joint venture between Nampost and Net 1. “We live in a rapidly changing world where technology has become an ever-present element in the provision of services across all sectors of the economy and social life. This joint business venture demonstrates that our efforts to promote and encourage public-private partnerships are bearing fruit based on the belief that private sector firms and state owned enterprises can create mutually beneficial synergies that promote efficiency, profitability and facilitate the application of new technologies,” said Pohamba. A large number of invited guests from the local business fraternity, parliamentarians and members from the diplomatic corps attended the launch. “Through Smart Switch Namibia, more people are going to gain access to modern and fast banking services that are secure, affordable and user-friendly. This is a demonstration that technology should not be feared, that it should not introduce complicated systems that are difficult to use. We live in a world where banking services have become a reality in the lives of most Namibians. From the youth to the elderly, all of us engage in financial transactions as part of modern living,” the President said of Smart Switch Namibia, whose board is chaired by Martin Shipanga, a former Chief Executive Officer of the City Council of Windhoek and NedBank Namibia. In the President’s view, the new company will go a long way to complement the existing banking services and thereby ensure that all Namibians needing banking services have access to it. “It should be noted that the availability of such banking services compliments government’s efforts to improve the standard of living of our citizens, particularly in rural areas. Another positive aspect is that this new infrastructure can facilitate the provision of social services such as the distribution of old age pensions, subvention for war veterans and other social grants. I believe that this system will also boost economic activities by making it possible for traders and suppliers of goods and services to effect financial transactions in a secure and efficient manner,” Pohamba asserted. He expressed the hope that ways will be found to create interfaces between this new system and the existing ones used by commercial banks. “In this manner, economic activities can be facilitated countrywide by creating a countrywide electronic payment system. This will also intensify our efforts to facilitate growth of the small and medium enterprises sector as part of our strategy to address the problem of unemployment. We believe this sector has the potential to create a large number of employment opportunities,” the President said. He applauded the reported outstanding security features of the new system that prevents fraudulent transactions on a customer’s account. “Such features are commendable because they will help safeguard savings and incomes of customers. Presently, the majority of the customers who bank with NamPost include the lower income groups such as the elderly, hawkers and self-employed citizens, most of whom live in rural areas where these services were not always available in the past. Moreover, the availability of technology should be accompanied by a human touch of helpfulness and patience so that customers such as old age pensioners can learn to use their new smart cards at a reasonable pace,” he said. Pohamba also intimated that useful lessons could be learnt from this joint business venture. “Through hard work, we can achieve our goals and realise our dreams. We should also be innovative in our approach both in the public and the private sectors to identify the areas in which new technologies can be applied to deliver services more effectively. Thirdly, we should learn that it is possible to provide modern services even to areas that have been considered as too remote to reach in the past. As we march towards Vision 2030, we must do our best to ensure that our citizens are part and parcel of this process of change and progress,” the President concluded.