Business continuity in the payment industry is becoming more important than ever as most companies in Africa are ill prepared when it comes to disaster recovery, says Lionel Slowe, head of the SADC project at BankservAfrica.

According to the latest EMC disaster recovery survey 74% of business executives in Southern Africa are not very confident that they can fully recover after a disaster and 52% of them experienced lost data or systems downtime in the last year.

Massive storms and power outages are the most common disasters that could create business interruptions in Africa and with the increasing reliance on banks for both electronic and traditional banking services, it is crucial for the banking industry to plan for business continuity and disaster recovery.

Other industry studies state that nearly three out of four companies are at risk of failing to recover from a disaster or outage.

BankservAfrica prides itself on being able to maintain the reliability and robustness of South Africa’s National Payment System and has invested in state-of-the-art disaster recovery facilities. The company has dual processing capabilities at its primary and secondary sites, which are reconciled daily to ensure accuracy and optimum business efficiency.

The company’s realtime and card products operate in full continuous processing mode, which allows participating banks to connect to any site ensuring ongoing availability of services to their clients. This capability is key for transactions that will take place as part of the SADC Payments Integration Project transactions.

The SADC Payments Integration Project is commissioned by the Committee of Central Bank Governors (CCBG) and aimed at creating an integrated payment system that will enable regional interoperability of financial transactions across all levels and types of user.

A key feature of the system is the introduction of a single currency settlement for all cross- border transactions through a single settlement authority (SIRESS). This feature serves to standardise and simplify the way in which banks in different countries are able to handle financial transactions, leading to increased efficiencies and reduced transaction costs.

BankservAfrica encourages SADC banking interoperability of financial transactions across all users and the integrated payment system will do exactly that.

BankservAfrica’s role in the SADC Payments Integration Project is to assist in creating a regional automated clearing house (ACH) to process card and EFT-based transactions. The company is planning on building a SADC regional ACH for the project in accordance with agreed system standards and timelines.

A critical component of this SADC Payments Integration Project is the operators who will perform the interbank transaction switching and calculation of settlement obligations between banks.

This operator group comprises various service providers, offering a wide variety of services such as card- based processing, direct credit and direct debit processes, mobile transacting and cheque processing to financial and other corporate institutions.