BSIC now in The Gambia
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Sahelo-Saharienne Bank for Investment and Commerce, BSIC (Gambia Ltd), has become the latest commercial bank in the growing banking sector in The Gambia. The bank, situated at the giant Sankung Sillah building opposite the Fajara War Cemetery along the Kairaba Avenue, opened its doors to customers yester morning.
The bank, which has its head office in Tripoli, Libya, came into being in Sahelian states following the signing of a treaty by heads of state and government establishing the SENSAD community. The inauguration ceremony coincided with the laying down of the foundation stone for the bank’s permanent structure just next to its present offices.
In her inaugural speech on behalf of President Jammeh, the vice president, Dr Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy said the establishment of the bank is indeed timely given the current investment climate which is extremely favourable.
In tandem with the development objectives in poverty alleviation and employment generation, she said, the heads of state and government of the SAHEL in February 1999 signed the treaty establishing the SENSAD community.
She added that within the framework of this treaty, it was agreed that a Sahelo-Saharienne bank be established to provide a comprehensive range of financial and banking services, including long-term financing for the public and private sectors with a view to accelerating socio-economic development of the people of the SAHEL and to reduce poverty significantly.
According to Veep Njie-Saidy, it is against this background that The Gambia government will continue to show firm commitment by subscribing 5% equity, equivalent to Euros 12 million in the BSIC group.
“I understand that equity installment payments are being made to that effect. On behalf of His Excellency, the President, Alhagi Dr Yahya A J J Jammeh, I wish to acknowledge the initiative and gesture of our brother and friend, the Great Leader, President Muamar Ghadaffi for authorising a Libyan government loan to pay in advance the shares subscription of all the members of the Bank. The Bank has opened 9 branches with its headquarters in Tripoli,” she said.
She revealed that the BSIC group was conceived to finance commercial activities including foreign trade and development projects on infrastructure, energy, etc.
She expressed hope that the bank will not rely on equity contributions and deposits to finance its activities but should be able to raise funds in the capital market. In addition, she added, the bank should be able to devise ways and means of financing public and private sector development projects on concessionary terms as in the fulfillment of the dream of the founding fathers, this bank ultimately, is expected to be a regional commercial and development bank.
“As we all know, countries in the SAHEL continue to face myriad of development challenges which they continue to grapple with. We in The Gambia however, continue to pursue sound macro-economic policies that have paid tremendous dividend.
The Gambian economy is vibrant with high growth rates, low inflation, strong public finances, excellent international reserves, good investment climate. The financial sector is growing more and more in strength and the banking sector thriving at appreciable levels.
Nevertheless, we still encourage investments that will serve as a catalyst to meeting the development objectives. It is our belief that the establishment of more banks will create real competition, driven by appropriate business plans and greater efficiency in the range of products, rates and services and not banking by mere speculation.
The government of the Gambia is fully committed to assisting the banking sector to grow and expand its services and products including the enacting of a body of laws to facilitate the establishment of off-shore services in banking, insurance, shipping and trusts,” said Veep Njie-Saidy
She then advised the banking fraternity to join efforts by pooling their resources to optimise their service provision to their clients and the country as a whole, be involved in long-term lending for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises as well as syndicates for greater ventures.
For his part, the Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, Momodou Bamba Saho, said BSIC is the first investment bank to set up in The Gambia and this will further increase the diversity of players and add vibrancy to the Gambian banking sector.
“The fact that you are investing in a Head Office building is tangible evidence of your long term commitment to the Gambia. We are pleased to see that you have confidence in, and are fully committed to, the future of this country,” he said.
He went on that The Central Bank has taken steps to encourage competition and improve access to financial services. These measures include the licensing of new banks and the expansion of the structure of the financial system to include non-bank deposit taking financial institutions resulting in significant changes to the competitive landscape.
The banks that will do well in this more competitive environment are those that are able to cut costs, innovate, implement appropriate risk management measures and provide cost effective services for their customers.
He said that even though the Gambian banking sector is well capitalised, highly liquid and profitable, it still faces challenges to play a more significant role in supporting economic development and wealth creation in the country.
The banking sector, he revealed, is still characterised by very high interest rate spreads. He added that the Central Bank is also encouraging financial institutions to modernise their information systems, increase the range of products they offer and provide better quality services to their customers.
Thus, he said, the Central Bank has encouraged the introduction of ATMs, point of sale systems and debit/credit card technology. However, currently, each bank is developing its own systems without conscious regard for harmonisation and interoperability with the systems of other banks which is costly and an inconvenience to customers, he went on.
Therefore, he revealed, the Central Bank will now work with the banks and the private sector to further develop the financial system infrastructure by building a national switch. This will ease connectivity between the various banks’ information systems and ATMs and provide an interbank payment gateway.
This will also allow the banks to share their ATM networks and install common technology infrastructure which are compatible with international networks. We expect this to optimise costs for the banks, provide convenient services for their customers and stimulate the development of e-commerce transaction activities in The Gambia.
Turning briefly to regional integration issues, Mr Saho expressed the belief that being a bank of the SENSAD community, BSIC will play an important role in the regional integration process and help establish relationships between businesses and institutions in The Gambia and in other SENSAD member countries.
Alhaji Alwarsalli, the chairman of BSIC Bank Group who flew on a private jet to grace the occassion said the group’s objectives are to:
1. Contribute to the socio-economic developments of SENSAD;
2. To support the community through the funding of growth sectors;
3. To promote investment and trade within SENSAD;
4. To finance the marketing of basic primary products and operational requirements of business enterprises amongst others.
He said that the bank can boast of having affiliates in nine countries, namely, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Senegal, Sudan, Togo and a Bank Training Centre in Mali with a head office in Tripoli, Libya.
The Gambia, he added, is the first Anglophone affiliate in West Africa and they will soon open an affiliate in Ghana within a month from now.
“By the end of 2008, we will have affiliates in Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, the Republic of Guinea and Guinea Bissau. In the future, we will have a presence in the entire SENSAD group of countries. With our network of affiliates, we are able to have corresponding banks worldwide and cooperation with regional and international financial institutions,” he said
He told the gathering that last week, by joint agreement with the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, they were able to conclude a joint finance operation for the procurement of petroleum and gas products for The Gambia through its foreign trade operations window, at a total amount of USD10 million, in a fifty-fifty co-financing ratio.
Having successfully put the financing in place, he went on, they are now looking forward confidently to a successful execution of the procurement which, if achieved, will put The Gambia on a good footing for future interventions.
Mr Alwarsalli said the aim of the BSIC Group is to make its mark in its member state communities by creating an insurance holding company, in parallel with the banking network, in all SENSAD member countries, as a strategy for further expansion and consolidation.
In the interim, he revealed, they have developed their outlook for the year 2008 and beyond, to embark upon an expansion programme for The Gambia.
On the banks immediate priority, he said that they have made special consideration for rapid expansion in The Gambia with the intention to establish five branches this year in Banjul and the Greater Banjul catchments, thus bringing their services and products to the doorsteps of every Gambian and other residents of the country.
He then reiterated the bank’s commitment to the ideals of President Jammeh and his government.
The bank has, in its midst, some well known Gambians with track records in the financial sector among them Dodou Bammy Jagne, former Gambian ambassador to the United States and one time permanent secretary at the Department of State for Finance for four years, as the deputy general manager; Momodou Capu Cham, former director of Finance of the Central Bank of The Gambia and Abdourahman Mboob, former managing director and director general of Gamtel and PURA respectively as head of administration of the bank.