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Payments and Settlements

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has legal responsibility for the national payment system (NPS), which is the backbone of South Africa’s financial system. 
 

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) operates, regulates, supervises and oversees the national payment system (NPS) and is responsible for policymaking. The SARB acts as an intermediary, or settlement agent, that enables financial institutions to make payments to each other. It operates the South African Multiple Option Settlement (SAMOS) system and the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system for the SADC region.

In South Africa, consumers and businesses have a choice of more than 18 different payment systems, ranging from low-value card transactions to high-value bond exchange payments. These payment streams all form part of the NPS and are managed by the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA),  regulated and overseen by the SARB. The South African Reserve Bank ensures that all transactions that South Africans make are safe, efficient and settled in the SAMOS system. The SARB also implements measures to reduce systemic risk to the NPS, thus ensuring the stability of the country’s financial sector.

 

Vision 2025

In 2018, the SARB published the National Payment System Framework and Strategy – Vision 2025, which sets out the goals and strategies for the national payments industry. These documents set out the roadmap to building a world-class NPS that serves the economy and people of South Africa. Payment systems must be capable of meeting the evolving needs of South Africans. The SARB expects consumers to have increased trust in and familiarity with electronic payment systems by 2025. To attain this vision, industry stakeholders should collaborate to ensure the safety, efficiency, integrity, transparency and accessibility of the NPS.

 

The National Payment System Vision 2025 identifies nine industry goals:
Promoting competition & innovation

Promoting competition & innovation

Financial inclusion

Financial inclusion

Regional integration

Regional integration

Transparency & public accountability

Transparency & public accountability

Cost-effectiveness

Cost-effectiveness

Interoperability

Interoperability

Transparent regulatory, governance framework

Transparent regulatory & governance framework

Financial stability & security

Financial stability & security

Flexibility & adaptability

Flexibility & adaptability

The national payment system (NPS) is a set of instruments, procedures and rules that enable funds to be transferred from one financial institution to another. This includes all the systems, mechanisms, institutions, agreements, procedures, rules and laws that come into play from the moment an end-user, using a payment instrument, issues an instruction to pay another person or a business, through to the final interbank settlement of the transaction in the books of the central bank. Financial institutions need arrangements to transfer funds between themselves, either on their own behalf or on behalf of their customers.

The NPS Act defines a payment system as “a system that enables payments to be effected or facilitates the circulation of money and includes any instruments and procedures that relate to the system.”

A payment system includes any payment system, clearing system or settlement system arrangement used in effecting a payment between a payer and beneficiary. The national payment system enables transacting parties to conduct transactions efficiently.

Payment systems are typically categorised into large-value payment systems (handling large-value, low-volume and high-priority payments) and retail payment systems (handling large-volume, low-value transactions). Payment systems are a vital component in enabling the settlement of obligations within the equities, bond, money market and derivatives exchanges. The national payment system encompasses the complete payment process.

 

The legal and regulatory framework

The South African Reserve Bank Act 90 of 1989 (SARB Act) as amended and the National Payment System Act 78 of 1998 (NPS Act) empowers the SARB to oversee and regulate the national payment system. The NPS Act provides the legal framework for the SARB’s management, administration, operation, regulation and supervision of the payment, clearing and settlement systems in South Africa.

The NPS Act also empowers the SARB to manage and control all payment-related risks.

 

The settlement service is supported by a well-established legal framework primarily based on rules, operating procedures, contractual agreements, laws and regulations. The NPS Act provides that the SARB may designate a settlement system if such a designation is in the interest of the integrity, effectiveness, efficiency and/or security of the national payment system. The Southern African Development Community real-time gross settlement (SADC-RTGS) system has been designated as such a settlement system and therefore falls within the scope of the NPS Act.

Market participants and public customers have different requirements for accessing the national payment system.

Customers access the payment system as end-users for transaction purposes, while market participants use the system to provide end-users with payment services. Electronic payment instruments include debit cards, credit cards and electronic fund transfers (EFTs). There are different categories of service providers in the national payment system, including non-clearing banks, clearing banks, settlements banks, designated clearing systems participants, payment clearing house system operators, system operators and third-party payment providers.

The National Payment System Act 78 of 1998 empowers the SARB to designate settlement systems, as well as non-bank clearing system participants. However, only banks are allowed to participate in the settlement system, and must also be authorised by the Payment System Management Body (PSMB) and comply with requirements for participation in the Reserve Bank Settlement System.  Clearing system participants, payment clearing house system operators as well as system operators require authorisation by the PSMB in order to participate in the NPS.  Third-party payment providers have to register with the PSMBs through their banks

Related documents

Starter Pack for Participants within NPS
New SAMOS Participant - Business Procedures
New SAMOS Participant - SAMEX Training Procedures

The SARB and the banking industry were pro-active in their approach to include the South African rand in the continuous linked settlement (CLS) system. South African registered banks were encouraged to become members of CLS. Following a major collaborative effort, the rand became a CLS currency in December 2004. 

Related documents

Participation in CLS

Related links

CLS services

The Payments Association of South Africa
A payment system management body (PSMB) organises, manages and regulates the participation of its members in the payment system.  The National Payment System Act gives the SARB the authority to recognise a payment system management body. The Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) is the management body currently recognised by the SARB.  PASA was established in November 1996 to act as a PSMB for the banks that provide payment systems to customers.


PASA manages its members’ specific payment activities through legal constructs such as payment clearing house agreements and clearing rules as well as service level agreements.

Membership of PASA is limited to the SARB, commercial banks registered in terms of the Banks Act 94 of 1990, mutual banks registered in terms of the Mutual Banks Act 124 of 1993, branches of foreign banks and designated clearing system participants.         


Payment industry committees


The SARB is involved in various committees, as detailed below:

Standing Committee for the Review of the National Payment System Act

The Standing Committee for the Review of the National Payment System Act was established in terms of section 15 of the National Payment System Act. The committee is a decision-making body responsible for recommending the required amendments to the Act. It comprises regulatory authorities and other relevant departments within the SARB as well as outside regulators such as the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, the National Credit Regulator, the Financial Intelligence Centre and the National Treasury. Industry experts are appointed in their personal capacity to provide the committee with advice, while a working group is responsible for providing technical, research and drafting support.

Payments Council

Established in April 2019, the Payments Council replaces the National Payment System Strategy Body. Acting as an advisory body to the SARB, the Payments Council’s main objectives include:

  • Providing an inclusive and centralised forum for stakeholder engagement and collaboration on payment system-related strategy matters in the interest of financial stability; and
  • Ensuring that the interests of all stakeholders within the national payment system are considered in developing a vision and strategy and executing strategies.

Payments Council (Information on this council is available to members only). 
Click here


Policy and Regulatory Forum

The Policy and Regulatory Forum was established in July 2019 by the National Payment System Department to consult with the broader payments industry on policy and regulatory matters and developments.

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