Namibia banking sector opening up


Windhoek – EBank Ltd says it will start providing banking services during the first week of November through mobile phones and the Internet, to become Namibia’s fifth commercial bank.

“EBank will formally launch its operations in the first week of November. We are now in the final stages of piloting and system testing,” spokesperson, Jerry Elago, said in an interview.

“Our sales team have been travelling throughout the country training our retail partners, installing signage and branding material,” he added.

EBank seeks to exploit mobile penetration, which “is well over 100 percent” and network coverage “in excess of 90 percent of the population”, Elago said. “The EBank model leverages this infrastructure to deliver easy, safe and smart banking solutions. Key to delivery of these banking services is a network of trusted, reliable and well-established retail partners and merchants.

“At launch EBank clients will be able to access their bank accounts anytime through their cellphones or Internet connection. They can also walk into one of our retail partners and merchants to deposit, withdraw or pay for goods directly from their EBank accounts,” Elago said.

Through use of mobile phones and Internet connections, the bank wants to offer services to “everyone, irrespective of income or location”.

EBank, which says its banking solutions are “evolutionary”, will challenge the dominance of local units of South Africa’s Standard Bank Group Ltd, First Rand Ltd’s First National Bank Namibia and Nedbank.

Namibia’s fourth commercial bank, Bank Windhoek, is largely locally owned.

Other banks in Namibia are Development Bank of Namibia, which is wholly owned by the state, SME Bank, a partnership between the Namibian government and Zimbabwean investors led by businessman Enock Kamushinda. The Namibian government also wholly owns agricultural sector finance institution, Agribank Namibia.

In a bid to open up the commercial banking sector, Namibia’s central bank in July granted provisional licenses to Banco Privado Atlantico SA and Letshego Bank Namibia to set up commercial banking operations in the country.

This past October, the central bank licensed Bank BIC Namibia Ltd, a unit of Angolan bank Banco BIC, to start operations in the country. Banco BIC is owned 42.5 percent by Isabel Dos Santos, daughter to Angola President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos. Isabel is reportedly worth around US$3 billion and is reputed to be Africa’s richest woman. 

Namibian private equity firm Pointbreak and South African financial services company TYME, each own 42.44 percent of the bank, with the remainder owned by local investors, among them prominent businesswoman, Monica Kalondo, who also chairs the board.

“The EBank model allows us to run a lean and cost-effective operation. 

We benefit from a reduction in costs associated with traditional brick and mortar banks. As a result, we will offer our clients (banking) charge structure that is reflective of this model,” Elago said.

“We are confident that every EBank client will be provided access to an evolutionary set of banking solutions that transform our perceptions of traditional banking as we know it,” Elago said.

November 2014
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