Over 200 bankers and farmers gathered here at a huge gala at the weekend where they were brought together to forge links and discuss how they can do business together.
Speaking a t the occasion, Oswald Ryan-Tellis, an expert in the banking industry said: “The banking industry has an important role to play in the country’s ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ initiative.”
He said many banks in Tanzania for some reason have been avoiding dealing with the farmers because most of the latter lack registered property to serve as collateral for loans and the financial industry has not exactly been targeting to reap from agriculture.
Prof Apollonia Kerenge, who is chief consultant with the Arusha-based Eastern and Southern African Management Institute (ESAMI) was the chief guest at the bankers’ gala night and she said it is high time people in the financial industry started to operate beyond their ‘usual cocoon of shiny-paneled banking premises’.
“Bankers can be farmers, or invest in local agricultural initiatives through special programmes, projects and loans granting to farmers,” she said.
Quoting the late Mark Twain, former American novelist who once stated that ‘a banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining but immediately wants it back the minute it rains’, she said:
“Bankers have an image of Shylock (from Shakespeare’s Merchants of Venice) and this has been scaring most people to deal or interact with them.”
She pointed out that, the image of people in shiny cars, suits and concealed in sky-scraping steel buildings doesn’t help much in encouraging the farmers to venture anywhere near them.
“At ESAMI we have started special training courses on ‘banking for bankers,’ stated Prof Kerenge, urging the bankers to not only learn to earn honours and certificates but also make differences in society.
Executive Director of Doric Group Africa Peter Morgan, who organised the gala said the event which will be taking place in series, aim to break the wall separating bankers and other organisations, institutions and members of the society and finally form a seamless working network for mutual benefit.
Robert Odundo, the general manager for Hughes Motors Limited, which sponsored the event said his firm had started extending loaning facilities to local farmers outside the banking system.
“We are agents of various types of motor vehicles including farming machinery such as tractors and have established a special process through which local farmers can acquire equipment and pay for them slowly and at own convenience,” Odundo said.
The Hughes Motors’ boss said they were compelled to by-pass the banking system in extending loans to farmers because many financial sectors in the country did not trust small scale growers.
“But things are changing, we have started to work with the Tanzania Investment Bank through its agricultural financing window to help local farmers acquire quality and new equipment to modernise their operations,” he said.
“We are also ready to work with farmers,” said Goodluck Peter the Customer Service manager with the Standard Chartered Bank, explaining that, bankers do not exactly avoid farmers but the country needed to come up with proper system through which the two parties can work harmoniously.