Dec. 6, 2022


3 min read

Ramakatane calls for review of money transfer laws

Ramakatane calls for review of money transfer laws

Managing Director of Interchange, Ponti Ramakatane

Story highlights

    State officials shun Basotho forex businesses
    Clients can now enjoy fast, secure, and convenient way to send and receive money

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A local foreign exchange and money transfer company, Interchange Lesotho has called on the government to increase the money an individual can transfer to suppliers abroad to at least M100 000 when importing goods and services.

Managing director, Ponti Ramakatane said an increase in the number of Basotho who were doing business using money transfer agencies was compelling for the government to review its money transfer policies to serve this market.

“This is considering that there is now transparency and automation in the financial markets and cross border management - inclusive of the customs services – making it easier to curb money laundering activities,” Ramakatane said on Thursday this week during the 10th year anniversary celebrations of Interchange Lesotho.

Interchange Lesotho works in partnership with Western Union and MoneyGram, the two biggest money transfer companies in the world.

They provide safe, fast, and reliable, real-time, electronic funds transfer services that enable people to send and receive funds instantly from over 200 countries and territories.

Ramakatane said Interchange Lesotho management considered regulation of great importance to align the activities of money transfer and foreign exchange and to impress upon the ideals of Fit and Proper.

But she said government officials were also not doing enough to support Basotho owned forex businesses like buying foreign currency such as dollars when they go overseas on duty.

“They would rather seek the services of a well-established foreign owned financial institution instead of us; yet we offer a similar service with competitive rates if not better,” Ramakatane said, adding that women had a challenge for recognition by communities, government and industry to give them business.

“This day should mark a beginning that women can make it and make us proud,” she said.

“We have shown that we are ready to meet any challenge. When you hear the testimonies of the various people we have helped throughout the world – from parents in Lesotho sending allowances to students studying abroad like China, the UK, and India - from professionals in the Diaspora sending money home to families, friends, and relatives – you will readily understand why Interchange Lesotho in partnership with Western Union and MoneyGram are recognised as a contributing force in improving livelihoods of Basotho through the money transfer market.”  

She said Interchange Lesotho clients could now enjoy a fast, secure, and convenient way to send and receive money where beneficiaries pay no charges when receiving their money; beneficiaries need not be account holders of any bank or financial institution to enjoy the service, and funds are paid to beneficiaries in local currency.

In relating the company’s history, Ramakatane said what started out as an idea between two friends who were also colleagues those years, emerged as a mammoth task that they had to enlist the help of their European investors Interchange.

“We saw an opportunity for a foreign exchange bureau as only the banks had this service amongst an array of their offerings,” she said. “We saw a niche market and our European backers were there to help us.”

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Ramakatane said her exposure to the South African foreign exchange bureau market as an employee had then further intensified her desire to come back to Lesotho and open a foreign exchange business.

“Of course there were challenges and we were met with rejection one after the other,” Ramakatane said.

In 2001, they made an application with the central bank for a Bureau de Change but the regulations were non-existent.

A few years later, they reapplied for licensing and the central bank eventually guided them through the processes until they opened their doors in 2012 with the help of the then-governor of the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL), Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane and her team.

Ramakatane said it was a humbling experience when the Europeans offered them startup capital without questioning the integrity of a new company.

“They entrusted us with a huge investment out of a basic business pitch for funding,” she said. “What was considered a dream has now become a reality. Interchange Lesotho is a tribute to foresight, planning, and cooperation.”

She dedicated the anniversary to women, especially those who “toil to bring their dreams to realisation.”

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