Africa’s business climate and the economy were left in tatters after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
And the continent is projected to recover in 2021 from its worst economic recession in half a century upon its fast-growing populations and markets which present an important opportunity for business.
For this to be attained Africa requires a Pan-African bank that significantly understands the demands of Africans and ready to respond to them in a cost-effective way that doesn’t disparage their recovery mode. And, the answer as has been put forward on several occasions is in Ecobank Tanzania
Boasting of a strong presence in Africa Ecobank is looking – in no small means – to become one of the leading lenders in the country.
In an exclusive interview with Ecobank Tanzania Managing Director, Charles Asiedu, he shares the growth trajectory, aspirations, standards and much more about the bank………
How does it feel for a Managing Director of your age to run a bank like Ecobank Tanzania?
I feel humbled for the opportunity to serve in Tanzania and together with my team, we are poised to make meaningful contribution to the economy. I am a result-oriented person which makes me drive people for the same. Hopefully, my team will bear with me to get the desired results.
We are creating homely workplace and improving on work ethics among staff which are part of our turnaround strategy we have been implementing since the last quarter of 2020. I strongly believe we will drive performance to greater heights sooner than later.
Tanzania is a beautiful country with lots of opportunities. Being new in the country, I am learning a lot from my team and I am settling in very well.
Is there some sort of compatibility of how people define you and how you really want to be recognized?
A: Frankly speaking, there is a big gap between what people think of us and what we can really offer in Tanzania. So we have a lot of room for growth. Ecobank is known in other markets among the top three players (e.g., my home country Ghana where it is the number one bank) and that is the potential we have in Tanzania too. However, we are nowhere near this potential, but that is where we intend to go.
Setting boundaries and peculiarities in banking sector is not an overnight job. What is Ecobank strengths?
A: There is no bank in Tanzania that can provide regional trade platform than Ecobank Tanzania and this is largely attributed by our unmatched presence in Africa. We operate fully in 33 markets in Africa and in all the countries that share border with Tanzania. This means that we offer a seamless trade platform to all businesses which conduct cross-border transactions from Tanzania to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, DR Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and vice versa. This has become even more relevant in the wake of African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Ecobank is the obvious partner in the successful implement of AfCFTA given our network in Africa.
How has the bank performed in the past five years?
A: We have not been in good shape in the last five years, a situation we are working very hard to turn around. We recorded huge losses as a result of non-performing loans (NPL) from struggling businesses and willing defaulters. The losses over the years has also impacted negatively on our capital, although we still comply with all the regulatory capital requirements.
We believe our turnaround strategy I mentioned earlier is bearing the desired results. For the past nine (9) months, we have begun seeing the light at the end of tunnel, as we have been posting marginal profits month-by-month except for the month of December 2020. This is a clear indication that profitability is possible given that this recent trend is the first time in the history of the bank.
We have redefined our credit culture and introduced more discipline on our operating platform. We have also injected new blood to blend with the experience of our long serving staff, and the result is that we have hungrier staff for success. Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), our parent company, is also providing us with the necessary support to turn around the business.
With the onslaughts of Covid-19, how did Ecobank adapt to changing business climate to remain relevant to its customers?
A: As an integral part of containing the pandemic, the bank had, for the past five years, been developing aggressively its electronic banking platform for both corporate and retail clients to provide more convenience to our products and services and competitive prices. In the process migrated our core banking system to a more robust one to facilitate the introduction of these new products and services. As a result, Ecobank was ready to continue serving its clients 24/7 even when they had to work from home.
And, we often advised our customers to not at all bother traveling to our bank halls for transactions, but rather access all our products and services via their mobile phones, tablets and computers and the comfort of their abodes.
We were also ready to provide the various reliefs to our borrowing customers in sectors which were badly impacted the pandemic. We also supported the various government initiatives in containing the spread of the virus by ensuring that staff and walking clients observed all the protocols and also providing financial support to the government initiatives.
Consolidating banking sector is very important milestone. Is this also happening to Ecobank Tanzania?
A: We are aware of how competitive the banking sector is given that we 51 banks operating in the country. However, we believe opportunities abound for us to thrive if we adopt and execute the right strategies. It is only natural that mergers and acquisitions take place in such a competitive sector. But we believe we have what it takes to succeed given our resilient staff, structure, and systems.
Is there any gap in the financial sector regionwide?
A: There is a huge potential in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in all countries although this is the most difficult sector to play in given the high potential for default. Ecobank has recently partnered with Africa Union to help raise 1 million young entrepreneurs in Africa through training, coaching, mentoring and financing. We also launched Ellevate, a product meant to provide capacity building and financial support to women led, own and managed businesses across Africa. We believe that supporting women businesses will go a long way into the heart of the poverty alleviation efforts in Africa given that an average woman spends about 90% of her resources on the family. We also have several other products in the SME sector to enable us to operate successfully in this sector given that it is the backbone of the economy.
The launch AfCFTA presents enormous trade opportunities for all cross-border businesses and given our network, Ecobank presents and unmatched financial platform for regional business growth in Africa.
Where do you see Ecobank Tanzania in the next five years?
A:In the next five years, the bank aspires to among the top ten banks if not five. We have every reason to do pursue this objective and with God on our side, we can “break the unbreakable, shake the unshakable” and prosper.
What would be that one thing we don’t know about Ecobank?
A: Ecobank is probably the most customer-centric bank on the market with world class products and services operating to help integrate African economies and promote growth. We conduct our business with all stakeholders on mind, making sure we excite our customers, comply fully with country rules and regulations, are environmentally responsible and deliver superior shareholder returns.
About Ecobank Tanzania
Ecobank Tanzania Limited is a Subsidiary of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) a multinational Bank Presenting 33 African Countries. Ecobank began its operations in Tanzania on the 19th January 2010 which enables the bank to commence provision of fully commercial banking services to the public. The bank currently has 5 branches (Dar es Salaam branches include: Acacia, Mwenge and PSPF branch. PSPF branch operates 24 hours daily. Upcountry; Arusha and Mwanza; these branches are strategically located bringing financial advice closer to Tanzanians and easy of cross border trade due to the Banks wide network.
Ecobank Tanzania currently has 7 ATMs all accepting VISA, MasterCards, China UnionPAy and PAN African Cards (PAC).