People at Dzaleka refugee camp in central region district of Malawi can now breathe a sigh of relief as they will no longer have to walk a long distance to access banking services, thanks to the New Finance Bank (NFB) who have opened a magnificent banking branch at the camp.
This is the first time for a commercial bank in the country to extend its banking services to the refugee camp since it was established in 1994
For the past 24 years, people at the camp have been traveling long distances to access banks in Dowa Central Business District(CBD) or capital Lilongwe where they met with numerous challenges including being robbed of their money.
According to NFB the move is also meant to enhance financial inclusion among people in the country, as per championed by the government and Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), the country's Central Bank.
The new bank is expected to cater for over 30 000 refugees at the camp and other people of the surrounding communities.
Speaking at the launch of the new branch at Dzaleka refugee camp New Finance Bank Chief Executive Officer Zandie Shaba said her Bank has chosen to strengthen entrepreneurial progress and making broaden financial inclusion by offering a conveniently placed banking opportunity to people at the camp.
Shaba observed that majority of refugees world-wide are excluded from accessing formal banking facilities hence the new facility will open up to them to have banking services within their vicinity.
"The new banking facilities and the new branch offers displaced individuals access to simple banking products and functions like fixed deposits, savings and transactional accounts; access to an ATM, agency banking, money transfers and foreign exchange transactions." Shaba said.
She added that this further offers access to lending products such as micro-lending, group loans and other that will further benefit the economic development of the community.
According to the NFB boss it makes business wise for her bank to invest in local community that can save, invest and grow with the bank and contribute to the broader economic context of Malawian growth and prosperity.
Shaba therefore revealed that NFB plans to open more branches and agencies this year in communities that are largely underserved by banking community and continue to work with local authorities to achieve financial inclusion.
In her remarks, minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Cecilia Chazama who was guest of honour congratulated NFB for the gesture and pledged government's to banking developments support through the Reserve Bank of Malawi.
Minister Chazama said the opening of the new bank facility at the camp has eliminated the distance the people from the camp used to travel to far places to access banking facilities and eased pressure to the camp management in issuing exit permits to people of concern just for banking.
She therefore appealed to the bank to extend its services to cover all transactions to match needs of people of concern.
Said Chazama: "We are aware that most of the people of concern have relatives abroad who send them money. I therefore urge the New Finance Bank management to extend its services to cover all transaction needs for the people of concern. "
The UN refugees agency, UNHCR Malawi representative Monique Ekoko was all smiles and expressed gratitude to NFB for the initiative.
Ekoko then commended NFB for preparing to offer group loans to refugees and asylum seekers in the camp who she said had been denied an opportunity to save their money in a reliable and safe manner.
She also applauded NFB for deciding to invest and grow together with the refugees at Dzaleka refugee camp and incorporating some Malawians and some Dzaleka community members in the running of its operations.
Located in the central region district of Dowa, some 50 kilometers north of capital city Lilongwe, Dzaleka refugee camp was opened in 1994.
It is home to over 35 000 refugees and asylum seekers mainly from war torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia and Ethiopia.