The WAEMU Automated Interbank Clearing System (SICA-UEMOA)
The WAEMU Automated Interbank Clearing System (SICA-UEMOA) is an automated tool for bulk exchanges and settlement of payment operations, in the form of transfers, cheques or commercial bills, between participating institutions at the national and regional levels.
SICA-UEMOA is made up of nine clearing systems: a national system for each of the WAMU member states and a regional clearing system.
SICA-UEMOA participants include the banks, the BCEAO, postal financial services and treasury departments.
Expected benefits of SICA-UEMOA
SICA-UEMOA ensures multilateral daily clearing of transactions among the participants, thereby reducing :
- turnaround time for exchanges and settlement of paper instruments from several weeks to a day at most (both domestically and between WAEMU countries), with, as a major innovation, the acceptance of all “displaced” or “out of place” instruments, at all Clearing Access Points (CAP/PAC);
- the risks and costs connected to the turnaround time and manual procedures for the handling and transportation of payment instruments;
- the cash required for clearing transactions by determining the clearing balance of all of each participant’s domestic transactions.
The launching of the WAEMU Automated Interbank Clearing System (SICA-UEMOA) was kicked off on November 17, 2005, in Mali and full production was achieved on February 14, 2008, with the start-up of the sub-regional system for inter-country exchanges.
Eligibility for participation in SICA-UEMOA
Only the BCEAO, the banks, public treasury departments and postal financial services are eligible to become authorized participants in the clearing system. Participation in SICA-UEMOA requires strict compliance with the undertakings below, which are contained in the clearing agreement and its annexes :
- eligible participants must hold a settlement account on the books of the BCEAO;
- they must comply with all interbank regulations on the exchange of cheques and other commercial bills;
- they must comply with the format, exchange rules and technical standards of SICA-UEMOA, described in its technical manuals;
- they must accept electronic settlement.
Conditions pertaining to admissible transactions
Only cashless payment instruments valid in the member states of the Union (currently, cheques, bills of exchange, promissory notes, transfer orders and draw-down notices), denominated in CFA francs, are admissible for clearing. A maximum amount of 50 million CFA francs has been set for transfers presented to SICA-UEMOA.
For transfers above this amount, participants are required to use STAR-UEMOA. No ceiling has been set for cheques or bills.
Operating procedures of the clearing system
Two clearing day profiles can be defined in SICA-UEMOA :
- a single-session day
- a day comprising two sessions.
For the time being, teleclearing operates on the basis of a single session per day of exchanges. Notification and modification of days of exchanges are within the purview of the BCEAO.
The SICA-UEMOA system calculates the net multilateral balances at both domestic and regional levels.
The clearing balance is settled by charging it against each Participant’s settlement account in STAR-UEMOA.
The settlement period refers to the number of business days between the date of the presentation of an instrument for clearing and the date upon which it is charged against the participant’s settlement account.
Table: SICA-UEMOA, settlement periods for interbank transactions
|Types of transactions||Interbank settlement periods in business days|
|Transfers (rejected transfers are not defined)||D|
|Other commercial bills on paper||D+1|
|Cheques and other commercial bills on scanned images||D+1|
D= Clearing day
Participating institutions may be granted time, where needed, between the transmission of the balances to be settled and the time set for effective payment, in order to allow them to find the necessary cash to cover their clearing balance.
Risk management in SICA-UEMOA
The BCEAO does not act as a lender of last resort. Plans have been made for all of the participants in the financial market to set up a mutual guarantee fund that each participant can use after unsuccessfully exhausting all other means of provisioning their settlement accounts with a view to settling their clearing balance.
Furthermore, sanctions have been provided for in the event of default. These may include suspension or exclusion.
In addition, provisions have been made for the BCEAO to deal with claims and litigation. The archive rules defined in the convention call for archiving of all data by each participant.
Recent developments in SICA-UEMOA
Following the adoption, by the national standardization committees (Comités Nationaux de Normalisation - CNNs), of new formats for cheques and commercial bills (bills of exchange and promissory notes) in the West African Economic and Monetary Union in compliance with international standards, the BCEAO replaced the WAEMU Automated Interbank Clearing System (SICA-UEMOA) with a new version that takes account of the changes in the abovementioned payment instruments. These new standards have been approved by the WAEMU Commission and apply to all actors in all eight countries in WAEMU.
One of the principal innovations concerns a change in bank account identifiers (RIBs), with the introduction of the ISO country identification standard replacing the country identification letters previously used in the WAEMU zone.
This innovation was also reflected in the modification of the “bank” code of SICA-UEMOA participants.
This new version of SICA-UEMOA was successfully launched on Friday, October 08, 2010, simultaneously in all eight (8) WAEMU countries.
Since the implementation of this version of SICA-UEMOA on Monday, October 11, 2010, no major incidents have been observed.
A transition phase of one (01) year was agreed upon by the national standardization committees (CNNs), during which the old and new formats for cheques and commercial bills could coexist with no difficulties. During the transition phase, the participants were urged to progressively withdraw the old formats.