Last week, Tanzania hosted for the first time a four-day board meeting of the Bank of Africa Group countries in East Africa and the Indian Ocean regions. Among the participants was the Group’s President, Mohamed Bennani, who also granted an interview Correspondent MOSES FERDINAND and sheds light on various issues about the pan-African bank. Excerpts:
QUESTION: We're made to understand that Bank of Africa Group is among the best top 100 banks in the continent. What is the secret behind this major achievement?
ANSWER: Bank of Africa is the Group which has been created and established more than thirty years ago in the Western part of Africa and the secret of success is to be close to the citizens and cater for their needs. It will be present in more African countries in the future.
Q: What's the market share of the Group in the continent’s fast growing banking industry?
A: It depends on a country. In some countries such as Benin and Madagascar, we have more than 30 per cent of the market share. In other countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger we have between 15 to 20 per cent of the market share. In Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya we command around two to three percent of the market share; our objective is to go fast to 10 per cent of the market share in this part of Africa.
Q: The last five years saw the bank of Africa Group having an upper hand in East Africa’s financial and banking industry; is this statement correct? If so why?
A: We are a pan African bank and our aim is to spread all around the continent. East Africa region is very important. There are more than 120 million people in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and therefore an opportunity to serve many people and to finance the economy. We are very happy to be in this part of the continent.
Q: How big is the Bank of Africa Group?
A: It has a presence in 15 countries, of which 7 are in West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal); 6 in East Africa (Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania and Uganda). It is also present in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in France.
In addition to its 14 commercial banks, the Group also includes a finance company, a housing bank, a leasing company, one brokerage and two investment firms, as well as a management company and a representative office in Paris.
Q: The world has had experienced economic crisis in the last two and half years. Can you tell us how did the Bank of Africa Group manage to escape the impact of the crisis?
A: Generally, the Group has been able to resist international crises since we are not involved in market products in international financial markets. We are more involved in providing the basic needs of African economies such imports and exports investments. We are resisting.
Q: Cross border trade is of late reportedly to pick up among East African countries. How far has your bank prepared to seize that opportunity?
A: It is always easy to work in regions that have commercial agreements. This is the case in West African region where we operate and so in East Africa through the East African Community ongoing monetary agreements. We are very comfortable to work with regions as a group than individual countries.
Q: Briefly, tell us how had the Bank of Africa fared in year 2011?
A: The 2011 Group’s balance sheet growth was 19.5% (to 5.4 billion dollars); deposits increased by 13% (to 4.1 billion dollars); credits increased by 17.7% (to 2.7 billion dollars); and its net profit went up by 7% (almost 60.0 million dollars).
Q: How can you describe the pace and growth of financial and banking industry in Africa?
A: In Africa you have some countries with very good success stories. For example, in my country Morocco the rate of banking in the region is very high among population where it is around 16 per cent. In this part of the continent it is still around 10 and 15 per cent. The prospect for growth is very high and we would like to be part of this important process. The future of the banking sector in Africa is wonderful.
Q: What is so unique about the Group?
A: We are an African bank. When we are in Tanzania, we are a Tanzanian bank. When we are in Uganda, we are a Ugandan bank. When in Mali, we are a Malian bank. This is really the secret of our success. We are here in Tanzania and we would like to participate in the development of this country at all levels in both private and public sectors, individuals, retail banking and financing investments and many more.