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Charter designed to fool stakeholders

The Namibia financial Sector Charter (NFSC) continues to condone practices applied by the financial sector  that distort and prevent informed consumer choices by not calling each other to order. Most players in the financial sector are signatories to the Charter including banks and insurance industry. The NFSC concluded that Namibian consumers lack financial literacy and by so doing blaming the consumer for widespread disorder in the sector. This was basically aimed at diverting attention from their deliberately fundamentally faulty “principles” that erode consumer rights. The Namibia Consumer Trust (NCT) became aware of the financial industry’s attempt to engage in self-regulation through the Charter in 2009 after the Namibian Parliament launched an enquiry into their conduct in 2006. The Charter commenced in 2009 and will end in 2019. By 31 March 2014 the Namibia Financial Sector Charter Council was supposed to have conducted a review of progress on implementation of the Charter and inform stakeholders accordingly. Signatories made commitments that by the end of 2014 at least 25% of Executive Managers are to be from the previously disadvantaged group of whom one third must be women. Additionally members of their Board of Directors are supposed to be at least 40% from the previously disadvantaged by 2014 as per their charter. 11% of the 40% Board members are supposed to be women. Judging by the lack of progress in the board room not only for consumers, but also for women, the financial sector is party to so many hostile challenges women face all over Namibia. Consumers must also be represented on Boards in the financial industry as such institutions cannot survive without consumer goodwill. Additionally the 0.2% of after tax profit which is supposed to be spend on consumer education should be done on an independent none branded basis rather than the current extension of brand advertising.

The trust therefore calls on the parties that signed the Charter to honour their expressed commitment and show progress to stakeholders including consumers, government, women, etc. Regulators and law makers are respectfully called upon to conduct an independent assessment of the Charter Council progress (if any). If the industry continues to fail not only will this lead to “captains of industry” being regarded as not truthful, but it leaves consumers with no choice but to call up on Bank of Namibia and NAMFISA as well as Ministry of Finance to institute measures that will compel signatories to honour their publicly expressed commitment towards Namibians. The government adopted a financial sector strategy in which lack of advancement by the previously disadvantaged Namibians in leadership positions have been acknowledged, but the strategy clearly expressed its expectation from the sector to reform accordingly as per their Charter. It is therefore lucid that the industry has been trusted to reform by itself. However it is also clear that the industry is failing to honour its own expressed commitments, thus the need for state intervention to protect public interest adequately. In that regard the Namibia Consumer Trust is herewith calling upon the authorities including the Inter-Ministerial Financial Inclusion Council which is Chaired by the Right honourable Prime Minister to launch an investigation not only into progress made by the Namibia Financial Sector Charter Council, but to seek to establish the true intention of the  mechanism (Charter) if it is not aimed at delaying vital reforms and or to fool stakeholders.
Mr. Michael Gaweseb
Executive Director
Namibia Consumer Trust

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