Commercial Banks globally play an integral role in financing businesses, projects and other forms of trade. Ecobank Uganda’s Managing Director, Michael Monari says their Bank is well positioned to contribute to the success of the East African Community integration process:
You have presence in all East African states, which means you are indeed contributing a lot towards business development. Is that the point?
That is well put. The East African market represents a total population exceeding 100 million and it’s a high growth market with economic growth rates of
5-10% per year. The Bank has been able to create a brand as the Bank for Venturous African business people. This has reflected in many ways, including the growth in the loan portfolio.
The group’s subsidiaries in East Africa, for instance, contributed over $52 million to the group’s total revenues and the group posted a 25 per cent year-on-year net profit growth last year, rising to $249.7 million from $206.8 million the previous year. The Bank is remaining true to this growth and successes.
You say you are one of the most affordable commercial banks in Uganda and in other countries across the region. What justifies that assertion?
The Bank relies on the core financial synergies that it holds in the region to offer affordable products and being able to offer revolutionary Banking solutions from the ground up. When the reliability and efficiency of the Bank’s products are put in perspective, the cost – benefit analysis is always advantageous to the customer.
If affordability goes beyond just the tariff guide and also considers the seamlessness of the banking solutions that give African Business people the confidence to step out of comfort zones and grow within the continent and around the world, then such a Bank is indeed affordable. Ecobank is such a Bank.
What plan does the bank have to keep its fingers on to the people of Uganda and across East Africa in terms of boosting trade?
Ecobank Uganda is reaching out to the unbanked population and facilitating SMEs to venture into the East African region. For example, the Bank opened started the Ecobank SME Business Club which has played a big role in rallying businessmen all over the country and exposing them to new opportunities in the region and across Africa.
Such milestones are crucially playing a part in the Uganda government’s poverty reduction programme and job creation, which can only come when businesses flourish. Unless we can reach out to East Africans with capital sources and practical financial advice, the region will retract on its glorious course to prosperity.
What strategies is Ecobank putting in place to support Ugandan businesses to boost trade across borders?
Regional integration is indispensable in unlocking economies of scale and sharpening competitiveness. For example, it is a reality that a country like South Sudan, where Ecobank has started operations this year, contributes about 13.47% to Uganda’s exports. With products like Rapidtransfer, which is an in-house Ecobank money transfer service, business people can safely move money across Africa for easier trade.
More still, the Ecobank Africa Diaspora Ac count enables business people and professionals who are working away from their home countries to access their accounts and transact on them across Africa like they would at home.
In terms of boosting trade through offering different currency services, where does Ecobank position itself?
Ecobank operates in 33 African countries and to leverage off its geographical presence, has set up a Trading desk dealing in all International major currencies like Pound Sterling, Euro, United States Dollar, Japanese Yen and the Chinese Renminbi. Also, the Bank is one of the few banks on the continent that trades in 17 African Currencies spanning the major trading blocks on the continent.
The Currencies services are offered from our International Currency Trading Desk in Paris, France and also for national individual currencies in the countries where we are present.
How best can businesses use Ecobank to benefit from the EAC?
A question has been asked whether Africans can efficiently trade with each other. The response is a reverberating YES. Ecobank being the Bank with the most presence in Africa, its contribution to African Businesses is unrivalled.
The Bank’s success is substantially impacting on regional integration by providing tangible mechanisms for cross-border trade (i.e. mobile banking, international debit cards, Regional Cards and money transfer services (rapidtransfer), etc). Likewise, African leaders and other multilateral companies operating in Africa should find ways to more efficiently support parallel projects in the interest of creating constructive change.
In the same vein, the EAC saw its 5 governments implement a total of 10 regulatory reforms last year to improve the business environment for local businesses and encourage entrepreneurship in the region. This is very commendable.