FINANCIAL institutions the world over have a unique role to ensure that businesses grow for the benefit of the people involved, their families and countries.
In fact, the link between banks for example and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is an obvious thing for the later to prosper. As one of key development stakeholders, Bank of Africa Tanzania has realised this fact and its zeal to help the country's SMEs is growing day by day.
It is in this regard that the bank decided to host breakfast meeting involving customers who are entrepreneurs for the sole purpose of learning from them and ultimately services geared to their needs. Correspondent, Moses Ferdinand who attended the meeting reports...
EXPERTS say Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) employ a large percentage of Tanzania's work force and therefore contributing considerably to the country's economic development. But lack of capital has been a stumbling block for most newly-formed business enterprises in Tanzania, most of which fail to develop for lack of capital. Some of these cease operations for failure to meet their business targets - again mainly due to low capital investments.
It is said that 90 per cent of the country's SMEs are at micro level, and most of them are informally operating, with little hope to grow. Therefore, it should be something to be proud of when an institution comes forth and decides to make SMEs development part of its priorities. We should also bear in mind that the vast majority of multinationals were at one time SMEs.
And it is through well functioning financial institutions and other factors that they have graduated to become big companies they are today. The Bank of Africa Tanzania breakfast meeting was unique in many respects. The top management of the bank was there and openly discussed, heard concerns, answered questions and even set deadlines to tackle some challenges for the benefit of customers.
The famous saying that a 'Customer is King' was put into practice. The meeting was also blessed to have Mr Abdekabir Benani who is a board member of the Bank of Africa Group responsible for the bank's English speaking countries from the bank's headquarters in Bamako, Mali to come and listen to Tanzania's entrepreneurs.
During the meeting, the bank's Managing Director, Mr Ammish Owusu-Amoah reaffirmed the bank's commitment toward developing the country's SMEs as a way to attain fast socio economic development in the country. Mr Owusu-Amoah said: "We are committed to developing the country's SMEs sector."
The MD said that the bank believes that it is SMEs that ultimately lead to big businesses in any country and therefore the meeting sought to hear and get first hand information from them with regard to challenges and concerns, all geared toward improving the bank's services.
"This meeting marks the beginning of many similar ones in the future," Mr Owusu-Amoah noted. He stressed that his bank's focus was to develop various products that will meet SMEs market because they believe that the development of Africa and Tanzania for that matter depends on the SMEs.
To achieve this, the bank has already forged partnerships with international development financial institutions like the International Finance Corporation (IFC) who have seen the bank's commitment toward SME market and provided funds toward developing the sector in the country.
According to him, as part of strategies to serve more SMEs in the country the bank plans to open five more branches before mid next year. Since it started operations in the country in 2007, the bank has managed to open ten branches in Dar es Salaam and six branches outside Dar es Salaam in Morogoro, Tunduma, Mwanza, Moshi, Mbeya and Arusha.
For his part, Mr Benani said it was the commitment of the bank to work with all sectors. "We want to identify your needs and work on them," he told participants of the meeting, adding that the SMEs sector should get help since it plays a big part in nation building.
One participant, Mr Alex Mosha from Yellow Pages Co. Ltd, hailed the bank's decision to meet and talk with clients. "I am very happy to have this opportunity to express my concerns and challenges to the bank's top officials," he said, while encouraging more such meetings in the future. Bank of Africa Tanzania is part of Pan African concern called Bank of Africa Group.
The Group operates in 15 countries, of which seven are in West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal) and six 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 firm and two investment firms, as well as a management company and a representative office in Paris.