BANKING and other financial services in the rural areas are still limited because most lenders consider the areas as unprofitable.
According to the players in the banking industry, establishing and running a branch to reach more unbanked population in some rural areas is still very high due to unreliable infrastructures, thus most banks to increase their presence in the urban than in rural areas.
However, mobile banking has become an important instrument in promoting saving culture and financial inclusion as the penetration of banking services in the country remains below 20 per cent of the population.
Global statistics from the state of the industry report on mobile financial services show that over two billion people remain unbanked, without access to safe, secure and affordable financial services. But for NMB Bank expanding services through establishment of new branches and NMB Wakala have been powerful weapons in reaching out people in rural areas in terms of easy access to banking services.
Speaking after opening their newest branch at Sokoine University of Agriculture last week, the NMB Bank's Chief of Retail Banking Filbert Mponzi said expanding services close to people is one of the top banking priority. Last week, NMB consolidated its market outreach leadership by opening its 227th branch at SUA in Morogoro Municipality.
The development, which augments the lender's position as the leading local financial solutions provider, is also a worthy financial inclusion investment that further betters its competitiveness. Apart from broadening its branch network nationally, the NMB SUA branch brings to 14 the bank's brick and mortal outlets in Morogoro Region and increases their number to 22 in the eastern zone.
"Before the opening of NMB SUA, our customers, notably the university workers and students, had to travel more than six kilometres to the Wami branch Morogoro town centre for banking services. With the new branch, we have also brought closer banking services to residents of Magadu, Mzinga, Kididimo, Misufini, Vibandani, Kasanga, Lugala and Mafiga," Mr Mponzi noted.
"Our bank has been market leader in the provision of financial services in the country through quality banking solutions, by being the most profitable bank that also invests substantially in the communities where it does business and having a broad branch network to better serve our customers," he added.
The network is supported by more than 800 teller automated machines (ATMs) and over 9,000 NMB Wakala agents. Furthermore, this strategic services infrastructure enables NMB Bank to excel in serving the national economy and playing a pivotal role in the overall development of the country.
Through NMB Wakala services most banked and unbanked communities across the country are accessing various banking services at their vicinity. The usage of new technologies and innovation has been the main source of proposed solutions in addressing gaps in bank account ownership between demographic groups. For example, through the 'NMB Mkononi', over 4 million bank's customers countrywide can easily access various banking services securely and conveniently.
Transparent and efficient mobile money services have significantly improved the financial lives and livelihoods of the unbanked and underserved. The guest of honour at the event, SUA Vice Chancellor Prof Raphael Chibunda called on all Morogoro residents to use the infrastructure for personal progress and national advancement.
Emphasizing the developmental role of banking services, Prof Chibunda commended NMB for its investment to support social welfare and economic growth. He said a vibrant financial sector was indispensable due to its supportive economic service values such as facilitating investments, enabling commercial and personal payments, providing saving avenues and making borrowing possible.
"The SUA administration values the support of NMB Bank not only for the wellbeing of SUA but also its contribution to development of our country. We have 1,402 workers and 13,862 students who will directly benefit from this branch," Prof Chibunda said.
NMB also used the event to donate hospital equipment for SUA Hospital and desks for the varsity's secondary school and money for a tree project all worth S 16.2 million.
The Eastern Zone Manager Dismas Prosper told this paper that the donated washing machine is worth 6.9m/-, wheelchairs 1.8m/-, the 55 desks 5m/-and the tree project got 2.5m/-.