4 December 2012

Namibia: SME Bank Open for Business

THE long-awaited SME Bank yesterday quietly opened its doors for business in Windhoek after the Bank of Namibia (BoN) finally granted its banking license on Friday.

SME Bank chairman Frans Kapofi confirmed the opening of the bank, saying the bank “wants to see how the market reacts to our services”. The official opening of the bank will follow soon, Kapofi told The Namibian.

Tawana Mumvuma has been appointed as acting managing director of the SME Bank, he said. Mumvuma comes the Metropolitan Bank of Zimbabwe (MetBank), a shareholder in the SME Bank.

Cabinet recently had to approve a new shareholding for the SME Bank after the BoN insisted that the interest of controversial Zimbabwean businessman Enock Kamushinda be slashed to 5%.

Kamushinda originally had 35% shares in the SME Bank.

In terms of the new shareholding, Government owns 51%, MetBank has 30%, the Namibia Financing Trust 14%, and Kamushinda the rest.

The SME Bank’s struggle for a banking licence started in 2009.

The BoN extended its provisionally licence for the SME Bank twice, sending stakeholders back to the drawing board for a banking model which meets the requirements of a credible banking institution while addressing the need for financing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Namibia.

The central bank yesterday issued a statement confirming that the SME Bank got its banking license, saying it is now “permitted to conduct banking business with any person in Namibia”.

The BoN “wishes to extend best wishes to SME Bank Limited on its future endeavours in the banking sector”, Ndangi Katoma, director of strategic communications and financial sector development at the central bank, said. When he laid the foundation of the SME Bank in February this year, Trade and Industry Minister Hage Geingob said Government would pump N$60 million into the bank as start-up capital. In addition, Zimbabwean foreign investors and shareholders in MetBank would put in between N$14 million and N$18 million.

Geingob said the SME Bank would provide collateral-free loans from N$6 000 to N$50 000 to SMEs.

He said the bank will open its first branches in Katutura, as well as in the North, the coast and the eastern part of Namibia before it spreads countrywide.

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