31 August 2021
In a country with an already poor savings culture, South Africans are battling to maintain financial wellness in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which shows no signs of slowing, emphasising the importance of regularly putting money aside to meet family needs and to build financial security for the future.
Commenting on the growing numbers of financially-embattled people, Al Baraka Bank's Chief Executive, Mr Shabir Chohan, said: "The low savings culture in this country is further aggravated by the tendency here for many to live beyond their means, spending more than they earn, with spending growing at the continued expense of savings, which is greatly concerning."
The bank has been a leading driver of savings promotion, actively participating in Money Smart Week, in March this year, by generating a series of videos designed for use on social platforms and covering such topics as savings, retirement and budgeting. This was followed in July - National Savings Month - by contributing to a Banking Association South Africa-led initiative, undertaking client communications via social media and radio interviews dealing with financial literacy and consumer finance education, all geared around the importance of saving.
"We, at Al Baraka Bank, are disturbed by savings apathy in South Africa and alarmed by the increasing trend of living for today, especially amongst the country's young people. Our aim is to utilise existing platforms in a concerted effort to contribute towards reversing this tendency and to inculcate in South Africa's youth a greater sense of financial responsibility," said Mr Chohan.
Accordingly, the bank is participating in the Banking Association South Africa's StarSaver Programme, which was to have been rolled-out to University students and school learners in July but for the social unrest which affected parts of the country.
The programme has been extended by the Association, enabling member banks to conduct interventions through August.
Mr Chohan said of Al Baraka Bank's activities: "We conducted radio interviews and, applying all social distancing protocols, addressed 80 learners at a large Durban school, delivering consumer finance advice and promoting financial literacy. Webinars are also to be staged for the benefit of a further two schools - one in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng - to further ingrain the savings message amongst our youth."
"We fully support this excellent programme and remain committed to taking the savings message to as many young people as possible, teaching them the basics of financial literacy, a working understanding of finance and the need to give active consideration to their retirement now, at a young age," he stressed.
He said of the pandemic and its economic implications: "We fully understand that the pandemic has brought with it financial difficulties for huge numbers of South Africans. We must, however, use this crisis and the financial distress it has caused to hammer home the need for a proactive approach to sustainable financial wellness and security going forward. We need to build a financially-resilient society in South Africa, one which is capable of deflecting the effects of crisis situations without impacting on their financial wellness."