Payments and securities transactions are growing faster in Africa than in any other part of the world, according to data from financial messaging institution SWIFT. Traffic volumes of payments information in Africa grew by 13.2% for the year to date compared to the same period in 2014, surpassing Asia Pacific (Apac) at 12.6%; the Americas at 12.1%; and for the “EMEA” region which includes Europe, the Middle East and Africa at 6.9%, or 8.8% growth for SWIFT worldwide.
Traffic between African countries has also been booming, good news for those who believe that Africa should focus on building competitive links and bringing the securities markets together.
SWIFT is a member-owned cooperative that connects more than 10,000 financial institutions and corporations in 212 countries and territories and provides a communications platform, products and services. Its SWIFT Index is seen to anticipate economic (GDP) growth in advanced countries, because the SWIFT infrastructure is so widespread that it picks up on increased levels of activity, particularly on commercial payments and transactions messages (MT103) on its systems.
Here are some examples of stand-out growth in SWIFT traffic in different countries (%age growth year-to-date compared to same period last year):
• Angola – payments traffic grew more than 78%
• Ghana – payments traffic rose by almost 30% and securities by almost 55%. Ghana has seen average growth of 27.2% since 2013
• Kenya – payment message traffic rose by 23.1%, while securities-related growth was 122.3%
• Nigeria – average yearly growth of 29.1% in traffic since 2013
• Tanzania – payments rose by 32.9% and securities by 45%
• Uganda – payments were up by 17.5% and securities by 31.6%.
The growth has been sustained for several years. Africa’s total SWIFT traffic rose by 44% over the last 3 years, of which payments rose 42% and securities information was up 37% across Africa.
For the first quarter of 2015, traffic from South Africa was 53% of traffic in Africa, compared to 72% in 2003.
Christian Sarafidis, Deputy Chief Executive EMEA, SWIFT, highlighted the value of SWIFT data in the story it tells about African economies: “The figures show strong organic growth across Africa and in East Africa particularly, and serve as validation of the positive growth trends we are witnessing in the region.”
Hugo Smit, Head of Sub-Sahara Africa, SWIFT, says: “Africa is an important market for SWIFT. Once again it has outperformed most of our other regions and has proven itself a critical component of our global business. Because the continent has such huge growth potential, we are continuing to invest more resources to support the local financial community. It is very heartening to see such impressive growth in West and East Africa, where we are currently opening new SWIFT offices.”
African corridors are becoming stronger. For the full year 2014, SWIFT data shows that 52% of the traffic sent from Africa stayed within the African zone, up by 16% on the year before and the highest growth rate for intra-African traffic. The trend was even more pronounced in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, where 55% of traffic sent from SADC stays in SADC, and the region is recording record growth, up 16.2% for the full year 2014 compared to 2013.
African financial innovators
SWIFT’s African Regional Conference (ARC) 2015 is happening this week (5-7 May) in Cape Town. One highlight is bringing Innotribe’s fintech Startup Challenge to Africa. The Startup Challenge introduces the world’s brightest start-up businesses to highly qualified financial service experts, angel investors, venture capitalists, and global leading fintech and financial decision makers. Innotribe is SWIFT’s financial technology innovation initiative and in the 2015 challenge, SWIFT Innotribe will have a round dedicated to fintech companies from across Africa, who will come to Cape Town in order to pitch to investors.
About SWIFT and the index
SWIFT is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It was founded in 1973 and still has its headquarters in Belgium. The SWIFT index is based on data on SWIFT MT 103 messages, a specific format that enables the bilateral transfer of information about payment transactions between customers of different banks or financial institutions. SWIFT says it is “the de facto global standard for cross-border single customer credit transfers and is used primarily for commercial rather than low-value retail payments”.
Wikipedia gives a run-down of the different SWIFT message types.