8 May 2014

Namibia: Still Waiting for Ebank to Become Operational

Windhoek — Namibian consumers will have to wait a little longer to take advantage of a new local banking entrant, known as eBank, in the financial market. This is because the provisional banking licence initially approved by the Bank of Namibia on July 30, 2013, was extended for six months at the end of January this year.

The extension was granted for eBank to achieve operational readiness.

eBank was established by Pointbreak, a Namibian investment and wealth management company, in association with TYME, a banking solutions provider operating the MTN Mobile Money retail bank offering in South Africa. The six-months extension, valid for the period February 1 to August 1 2014, was issued following a mandatory pre-opening inspection by the Bank of Namibia in January this year. At the time of the extension, Monica Kalondo, chairperson of eBank, stated that the results of the pre-opening inspection and subsequent licence extension were well received by the bank's board. "We are now attending to the last conditions of the provisional licence and are satisfied that these conditions will soon be met," said Kalondo at the announcement of the extension.

"As you would recall, on July 30, 2013, the Bank of Namibia announced to the public that it has approved the application for a banking licence to eBank Limited provisionally. This authorization was granted under Section 11 of the Banking Institutions Act, 1998 (Act No. 2 of 1998 as amended). The provisional licence was valid for a period of six months as from August 1 to January 31 2013, which has now been extended," explained Ndangi Katoma, Director: Strategic Communications and Financial Sector Development at the Bank of Namibia. According to Kalondo, the eBank model's key purpose is the economic enablement and empowerment of all citizens. "With economic inclusion we do not simply mean the enablement of transactional banking, but the full inclusion of citizens in all the elements of economic activity. This specifically includes access to transactional banking, access to savings mechanisms, access to insurance, access to loans and access to consumer education," remarked Kalondo at the announcement of eBank's intentions last year. She added: "The three main inhibitors to economic inclusion or access to financial instruments remain physical accessibility, financial accessibility and emotional accessibility. Cognizant of these challenges, eBank intends to bring an inclusive financial services offering to the Namibian market in order to make banking as accessible as mobile communications."

A recent study indicated that about 40 percent of Namibians remain unbanked, meaning that they do not have access to banking services. However, it still takes about half of those people who are banked more than an hour to get to a bank. In stark contrast, there are more mobile phone connections in Namibia than people. Namibia's low population density and vast distances have opened a niche for alternative distribution channels such as mobile connectivity as a key factor in driving financial inclusion.

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