Honourable Abdou Kolley, the minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, yesterday, Wednesday, 5th August 2009, on behalf of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh - the president of the republic of The Gambia, commissioned the opening of Skye Bank Gambia, a new entrant into the Gambian banking industry.
Hon Kolley, in his address at the ceremony, conveyed his pleasure to the board of directors of Skye Bank for successfully meeting the requirements to be licensed by the Central Bank of The Gambia, under the Financial Institutions Act 2003. "Your entry into the Gambian banking industry will hopefully contribute to widening as well as deepening the sector," said Hon Kolley, while adding that the investment that had been expended in this venture is a clear manifestation of the bank's long term commitment to The Gambia.
As a government, continued Hon Kolley "we have and will continue to ensure confidence in and commitment to The Gambia, by providing the appropriate macroeconomic and financial policies as well as the right investment climate for the investors such as yours." "The Gambia in the recent past has seen and continues to enjoy relatively low inflation and strong economic growth. Net external position and fiscal situation have improved considerably and the latest projections indicate further strengthening of the country's economic and financial indicators."
These positive results, Hon Kolley said, "can be attributed to a combination of factors, among which macroeconomic stability underpinned by prudent policies and robust performance especially in the telecommunications, construction and tourism sectors of the economy". He also stated that "in consonance with these developments, the banking industry has continued to expand in the past few years. It has grown in strength as banks have recapitalized, improved business processes and introduced new products and services to the benefit of their customers." He further explained that government recognizes the critical role that the banking sector can play in the country's socio-economic advancement, income generating activities and poverty reduction efforts.
Also speaking at the event, Bamba Saho, the governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia congratulated Skye Bank for successfully meeting the licensing requirements of the Central Bank and for making an entry into the Gambian banking sector. Saho explained that Skye Bank Gambia Limited is a subsidiary of Skye Bank PLC, a Nigerian-based company with a strong pedigree. The entry of Skye Bank, he said, "brings to thirteen the number of banks in the Gambia".
He went further to say that "Skye Bank's entry into the sector is a further demonstration of the role that banks are playing in the regional integration process. Recently, we have seen strong investment in the banking sector from the ECOWAS region. This has resulted in increased employment, the expansion of bank branches to areas which previously did not have access to financial services and the adoption of new technologies to deliver such services."
The Central Bank Governor then went ahead to challenge banks to further contribute to accelerating integration by encouraging their clients in one ECOWAS country to invest in infrastructure, agriculture, tourism and other sectors in another country. Banks, Saho said, "can also promote the achievements of the aims of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme by providing the payments infrastructure that will facilitate intra-regional trade."
Mr. Akim Yusuf, managing director/CEO of Skye Bank, in his welcome address at the event noted that "the road to this day has been long and challenging but a memorable journey on which we have received tremendous cooperation from the government and the good people of the Smiling Coast of Africa as well as the encouragement and understanding of the Central Bank of The Gambia. For all these we are very grateful to the various individuals who in their official and personal capacities have been pillars of support to the realization of this dream."
He also assured the government and people of The Gambia that Skye Bank will become a development partner. "Today you see in Skye Bank Gambia Limited a development partner (following in the traditions of our parent institution- Skye Bank PlC) with a strong commitment to further development of the Gambian economy and the expansion of public infrastructure." The Skye Bank boss went on to express his bank's deep appreciation to the administration of the President, HE Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, for opening the doors of the Gambian economy to foreign investment and for maintaining one of the safest countries in the world to do business.
Skye Bank brand according to Mr. Yusf, "has become a tremendous force to reckon with in Nigeria and Sierra leone ; we commit, in Skye Bank Gambia Limited, to build a dynamic and highly respected financial institution that all will be proud of.