The National Treasury in 2011 outlined South Africa’s planned regulatory reform for the financial sector in a policy document “A Safer Financial Sector to Serve South Africa Better”. The policy objectives of this reform include maintaining financial stability, strengthening consumer protection, combating financial crime, and ensuring that financial services are appropriate, accessible, and affordable. Twin Peaks was proposed as the governing architecture to achieve these objectives, with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) mandated for financial stability, the Prudential Authority within the SARB tasked with the safety and soundness of financial institutions, and the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) established to, among others, ensure fair treatment of financial customers, provide financial education and promote financial literacy.
The 2011 Policy document also highlighted financial education as one of the key components of a comprehensive solution for protecting consumers of financial services, emphasising the need for a risk-based national consumer financial education strategy and a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure the active participation and collaboration of all relevant stakeholders. Building on these policy proposals, a voluntary multi-stakeholder National Consumer Financial Education Committee (NCFEC) was established in 2012. The NCFEC is made up of representatives from financial services industry, government departments and regulators, professional bodies, academia, non-profit organisations, and other civil society organisations.
A significant proportion of South Africans continue to demonstrate very low levels of financial literacy, and their financial participation is limited, owing in part to knowledge gaps in this area. The evidence of low levels of financial literacy among South Africans was first reported in the results of the 2012 Financial Literacy Baseline Survey (Baseline survey). Only 44 per cent (43 per cent in 2020) of all South Africans were confident in their financial knowledge and required no advice, compared to 36 per cent (33 per cent in 2020) who were not confident, confirming that a significant portion of the population is still incapable of making sound financial decisions.
In addition, the 2020 Baseline survey highlighted that patterns of low financial literacy in South Africa mirror the broader dynamics of socio-economic factors and indicate that the financial literacy levels of the various population groups vary considerably. Further, it noted that a significant portion of the population does not speak English, as a result, they confront unique challenges in learning about and accessing financial concepts because the content is mainly provided in English.
It is with these realities in mind, that the NCFEC adopted the Money Smart Week (MSWSA) concept to effectively reach large audiences, highlight financial management as an integral part of our daily lives and convey financial education messages more inclusively. MSW is a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their finances which was developed and spearheaded by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002. While modelled around the MSW idea, the implementation of MSWSA has been tailored to meet the local context.