By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Namibians in the low-income category are gradually opening up to the idea of having their own bank accounts. For the majority of them, the days of burying their money under the mattresses or pillows are becoming something of the past. However, it has become apparent that while it has inherently been difficult for a poor person to open a bank account in the past as people were required to have a payslip, this trend recently changed as a vast majority of the “unbanked” are now proud owners of such a necessity. Since the introduction of a new product, EasySave on November 14 last year, more than 12,000 people have opened accounts through EasySave. In a recent press release, Jerry Ekandjo of Bank Windhoek’s Marketing and Corporate Communication Service, stated that the reaction to the new product over the past one and half months has been very positive. “We are overwhelmed by the response of the public to our newly introduced, low cost account called EasySave,” said Ekandjo. “This product is mainly aimed at the ‘unbanked’ sector of society who have for many years been excluded from the formal banking sector for various reasons, amongst others, affordability and access. It seems EasySave has become quite popular because it is considered affordable by these people. The Managing Director of Bank Windhoek, James Hill, added the objective is to “truly deliver products and services that meet the needs of the low-income earners in Namibia”. EasySave is therefore said to be unique because a client does not require a payslip to open an account, and no deposit fees are charged and low withdrawal fees apply when one opens such an account. The bank requires a minimum balance of only N$20 to be kept in the account and with a monthly service fee of N$2,00 per month first entry-level bankers find EasySave affordable. “This is the first time in my life that I have my own bank account,” said one client Olga Mathilda Jacobs rather excitedly. “Now, I can pay for my children’s school fees,” added Jacobs, who also received a cash prize of N$5 000. For people like Olga and many others who never had a bank account before, this is a welcome initiative. Economically, such a venture throws a positive light on the fact of responsible banking and encouraging more people to save their hard-earned cash. The EasySave account also offers clients free life cover worth N$2 500. In addition, clients will also earn competitive interest rates ranging between one percent and four percent, depending on the amount in the account. The development of the EasySave product was guided by various in-depth surveys including the FinScope study conducted in 2004. As a result, Bank Windhoek responded to the research by developing a product that will satisfy most of the needs of Namibians that have an income of less than N$1 500 per month.
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