By Buumba Chimbulu

COMMERCIAL banks must reduce more interest lending rates to create affordable credit to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) who are the main employers in the country.

Minister of Finance, Felix Mutati issued the challenge in Lusaka, saying access to credit was necessary to grow key economic sectors such as agriculture while hastening the pace of industrialisation.

“Access to credit is necessary to grow economic sectors such as agriculture and Hassan the pace of industrialisation. I therefore put a challenge to all banks and financial services providers to reduce interest rates so that credit becomes affordable to support our SMES who are our main employer in our country,” Mr Mutati said.

In in a speech read by deputy accountant general, Joel Ukwimi, at the 3rd Zambia Institute of Banking and Financial Services Banking (ZIBFS) annual conference in Lusaka yesterday, Mr. Mutati also implored financial service providers to continue investing in technology to assist Government develop Zambia.

He explained that digital financial services were a cornerstone for development of Zambia. Mr. Mutati also said financial inclusion had been a national agenda for the past few years and that Government under President Edgar Lungu’s leadership had made great strides in enhancing financial inclusion through various channels, including technology.

“Principally, digital financial services and new technologies offer great potential to overcome massive developmental challenges and make significant contribution towards achieving universal access to financial services in the country,” Mr. Mutati said.

Meanwhile, ZIBFS president, Cephas Chabu, implored digital financial service providers to introduce user friendly products and services and further sensitise their customers.

And Bankers Association of Zambia (BAZ) vice chairperson, Kola Adeleke, said the sector had recorded a significant growth in the usage of electronic and mobile payment channels with Point of Sale usage increasing by an average of 50 percent and 58 percent for mobile payments between 2013 and 2016.

Mr. Adeleke said BAZ was optimistic that the usage of digital payment was already bearing fruit which was a step towards driving the cash lite Eco payment landscape.

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