Lilongwe — In an effort to promote financial inclusion, New Finance Bank on Thursday officially launched the first ever Bank at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa.
Officially opening the branch, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Cecilia Chazama said the bank would ease the distance that refugees and asylum seekers had to travel to access banking services.
"I am aware that our refugees and asylum seekers had to go to as far as Dowa, Mponela, and Lilongwe just to access banking facilities," she said.
Additionally she said the coming of the branch would ease pressure for the camp management in issuing exit permits to the refugees when they wanted to access banking services outside the camp.
Chazama urged New Finance Bank to offer quality services to the refugees, advising them to extend its services to cover all transaction needs for the refugees.
She pledged support to the new branch through the Reserve Bank of Malawi, in ensuring that operations in the camp remain a success, saying their initiative was in line with the Malawi Governments Development Agenda to strengthen the private sector.
New Finance Bank Chief Executive Officer, Zandile Shaba said refugees world over are excluded from accessing formal banking services and the new branch offers access to simple products, such as micro-lending, group loans that will further benefit the economic development of the community.
"We are launching a fully operational branch here at Dzaleka refugee camp, this is indeed a departure from what banking institutions normally focus on and this speaks to our mission of making people's lives better," she said.
Shaba said the camp has seen an explosion of entrepreneurism, giving rise to successful micro-businesses, from farmers to barbers, to profitable enterprises that include grocery shops, saloons, restaurants and poultry businesses. "It is indeed a unique and flourishing economic ecosystem and the only thing missing from the community was a bank."
"It is in this context that New Finance Bank has chosen to strengthen entrepreneurial progress and broaden financial inclusion by offering the community a conveniently placed banking opportunity, coordinated with the immeasurable support of the Malawian Government, and efforts of various NGOs like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)," Shaba explained.
Although the bank was being officially opened it has already been operating in the camp since November 2017, through a small kiosk that was erected at the camp, and over 1000 refugees have already opened bank accounts with the bank since it started operating.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Malawi Representative Monique Ekoko said the banking services being offered will empower refugees to make proper savings with the proceeds from their businesses.
"There is no denying that refugees will be delighted to benefit from these services just as any individual would, further, we look forward to additional banking services being offered in near future," she said.
Adding: "What is also exciting is the fact that the branch will incorporate some Malawians and some Dzaleka community members in the running of its operations as UNHCR we are delighted with this news as it draws on the human resource capacities in the camp and also benefits the surrounding community."
Dzaleka Refugee Camp hosts nearly 27,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and Ethiopia