South-South Cooperation: Bank of Sierra-Leone Officials Undertake Study Visit to Fiji

Suva, Fiji – Officials from the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), a West African state, are in Fiji this week to observe and share knowledge with the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) on the development of regulatory sandboxes.

Regulatory ‘sandboxes’ are a relatively new phenomenon in the regulation of the financial industry, and refer to a testing ground for new business models that are not covered by current regulation or supervised by regulatory institutions.  The purpose of the sandbox is to adapt compliance with strict financial regulations to the growth and pace of the most innovative companies, in a way that does not overwhelm these companies with rules, but maintain consumer protection.

The visit is coordinated by the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP) and its “sister” programme working in Sierra Leone; Mobile Money for the Poor (MM4P).

The BSL team consists of Ms Rugiatu Jalloh, Senior Manager of the Banking Supervision Department and Ms Mona Kabba, Head of Legal Affairs Division and they are co-hosted by PFIP and the RBF.

During their week-long visit, the team will interact with RBF officials and learn about key financial system development policies and initiatives, practices from Fiji’s financial regulatory supervisors and their interactions with innovators in the financial services industry.  They will also visit some of Fiji’s new Financial Technology (FinTech) projects supported by PFIP.  They are particularly keen to observe Fiji’s market developments around mobile money, micro-insurance and remittances; areas that both countries are working towards improving.

The visit included a courtesy meeting with the RBF Governor, Mr Ariff Ali who welcomed their timely visit given that Fiji is currently in the first phase of seeking industry feedback on its draft Regulatory Sandbox Guidelines.

Governor Ali said “we understand that the Bank of Sierra Leone has made good progress in implementing its sandbox approach which we can replicate/adopt as we are currently finalising our guidelines.  This exchange allowed us to share some key lessons on the role that innovation and financial technology have played in Fiji’s financial inclusion journey and at the same time helped us gain valuable insights on how another developing country is implementing and encouraging FinTech growth.  Such exchanges will contribute towards the capacity development of our staff and strengthen our cooperation with other countries.”

PFIP Programme Manager Bram Peters said that PFIP’s sister programme in the African region, MM4P had requested PFIP’s support to facilitate the exchange.  He welcomed the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning and hoped that the central banks of both nations would mutually benefit from the exchange.

Fiji’s draft sandbox guidelines are currently being reviewed by financial service providers and their feedback will be incorporated into the document before the next round of industry consultation commences.  Sierra Leone has already released a regulatory framework and is currently working with its first cohort of four FinTech companies to pilot their new solutions over a 12-month period.