Zimbabwe’s newest bank, Empower Bank, is targeting to reach out to 1,5 million clients, with the microfinance institution also angling to set up branches in all the country’s 10 provinces by 2020.
Economic analysts say financial inclusion is the right way to go for Zimbabwe's economy which comprises thousands of unbanked small-scale players.
Officially opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on July 5 in Harare, EmpowerBank will provide financial way out to the financially excluded population, with greater focus on youths and other marginalised citizens.
Soon after the opening, the bank immediately started offering its services and to date, hundreds of youths are understood to have opened accounts.
Speaking to The Southern Times, Empower Bank chair Raymond Njanike said the bank would set up shop in all the country's 10 provinces, with Bulawayo set to be the next port of call after the opening of the main office in Harare, which coincided with the launch.
According to Njanike, the bank will also create 20 000 jobs for agents through the agency-based banking model that will facilitate access to remote areas.
“The bank hopes to rollout the satellite branches and agency banking programme to all provinces by the end of 2021 and hope to extensively reach every potential client in its sector by 2023 where it is hoping to have recruited 20 000 agents and 1 500 000 active customers.”
“Empower Bank will embark on an intensive branch rollout plan which commences with the opening of two fully-fledged branches in Harare and Bulawayo by end of September 2018 and then establish nine (9) more branches in all provincial capitals by end of 2020 while at the same time supporting the bank’s operations with agency-banking model, which is cheaper and convenient.”
Njanike said the bank will offer special funding to small-scale miners as the financial sector steps in to support Government’s plan to boost gold output to 100 tonnes per year.
“Empower Bank will also focus on serving the small-scale miners operating in the gold producing regions of Zimbabwe, with the objective of addressing the issue of gold leakages.”
He said the bank will put in place mobile and internet banking facilities to allow customers to have access to their bank accounts from their mobile phones, computers and laptops via the web.
Njanike said the business plan involves “ensuring the adoption of very minimal balance account opening strategy that will ensure that at least each and every member in the community has a bank account”.
According to the Empower Bank chair, the financial institution will provide various products and services relevant to the youth’s unique requirements as individuals, groups, associations, clubs, cooperatives and communities.
He said the bank’s loans portfolio will include various forms of "micro credit" that include agricultural credit, cooperative credit, order financing, invoice discounting and consumer credit.
United Kingdom based economics expert, Dr Brian Mangwiro, said financial inclusion provides an important lynch pin for economic growth.
"Financial inclusion is the backbone of any meaningful economic development. The Empower Bank should aim to extend credit to the lower income and smallholder - or so-called 'missing middle' sectors of the economy, which is likely to have higher positive multipliers in the broader economy. The challenge is to ensure that the bank is adequately capitalised and that it engages in innovative and prudent lending."
Other services offered by the bank include loans for school fees loans, small and medium enterprises, special loans for institutions, clubs, societies, churches, as well as savings account for farmers, agro traders (input suppliers, middlemen, agro retailers) and any other players in the Agricultural value chain.