Ecobank here to stay: Ayeyeni

ECOBANK Transnational Incorporated says it will provide a platform for the local bank to access global finance, as it seeks to stay in Zimbabwe for the long haul.

BY NDAMU SANDU IN ABUJA, NIGERIA

Ecobank group chief executive officer Ade Ayeyemi told NewsDay on Wednesday that the banking group would continue supporting Zimbabwe.

“We are a bank that is there to stay, especially in allowing other banks to do transactions through us when other international banks delist Zimbabwe. We took those other banks and provide access to global finance,” he said.

The Togo-headquartered group bought Premier Banking Corporation in 2011 and rechristened it Ecobank Zimbabwe Limited.

The local operation was supposed to be in the top in Zimbabwe in line with the group’s strategy of having a say in the market share where it operated in.

“That is no longer our strategy from 2015 because it is not possible to be good in every market and still think you can be one of the top five in every market. What is important is that in what you do, be among the top. So if we choose digital, we want to be in the top five. If we choose to finance trade as what we do, be among the top five,” Ayeyemi said.

“In Zimbabwe, we are one of the top two in trade finance. We are one of the top five in digital in Zimbabwe. We may not be the largest bank, but we are the bank that supports the import of goods and services in Zimbabwe when other people walked away. We may not be the largest bank in Zimbabwe, but we are critical in the things we do: in trade finance if you check the news you will see that in terms of financing the import of petroleum products, we are one of the top. It is important that you do what you can do. We will not be top five in everything.”

Asked how much the bank had channelled towards supporting trade finance in Zimbabwe, Ayeyemi threw down the gauntlet.
“Look at the number and see who is financing trade in Zimbabwe, is it Ecobank or other banks that ran away? Who kept open when people were reducing availability of dollars? Is it Ecobank or other banks?” he answered.

Last month, Ecobank Zimbabwe board chairman Fortunate Chisango said the bank had since mobilised letters of credit worth $150 million for Zimbabwe with the support from its international parentage and foreign partners.

The funds were for the importation of fertiliser, fuel and raw materials used to manufacture cooking oil.

Chisango said the bank was concluding structures to roll out an additional $45 million into the Zimbabwean market, to fund the import of critical equipment for businesses.

The Ecobank boost comes at a time when companies are experiencing challenges in making foreign payments and after Zimbabwe has lost about 50 correspondent banks since 2008.

Ayeyemi said the foreign payment struggle would come to an end when Zimbabwe holds a peaceful election.

“All of this will come to an end … The election will finish and people will become more comfortable with Zimbabwe and all of this will come to an end. Let’s not dwell on historical reactions to the problems of the past. The country is getting back to a situation in which it will become a global player. Let’s look at the hope that a peaceful election will create, rather than about the past,” he said.

Zimbabwe is going for the first election in the post-Robert Mugabe era following his ouster in November last year.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to deliver a free, fair and credible election on July 30.

The Ecobank Transnational Incorporated is a pan African bank with operations in 36 African countries.