By Desie Heita
The central bank has issued a licence to Absa South Africa to set up a commercial bank in Namibia.
“We can confirm that the Bank of Namibia has granted a provisional banking licence to Absa bank,” Patrick Wadula, head of media relations at Absa told New Era this week from South Africa.
The Assistant Governor at the Bank of Namibia, Iipumbu Shiimi, has also confirmed that the central bank has issued a licence to a fifth commercial bank.
The confirmation comes at a time when the financial sector is awash with rumours of a fifth commercial bank entering the market, something many business executives have believed to be a hoax.
The Bank of Namibia has consistently been declining to be drawn into discussing the issuance of a licence to a new commercial bank, opting instead to the standard “no comment” response, thus fuelling even more speculation over the entrance of a new commercial bank.
Wadula said the issuance of a provisional banking licence “is the first step in pursuing the possibility of entering the Namibian banking market”.
Absa bank, one of the largest financial services groups in South Africa, was the largest shareholder in Bank Windhoek, with 34.4 percent, through Capricorn Investment Holdings Limited, an investment holding company with a diversified portfolio of financial services.
Capricorn Investment Holdings Limited bought the shares back on November 8, 2006, after Barclays Bank Plc bought 56.4 percent in Absa in 2005.
Capricorn Investments Holdings and Barclays felt they would be competitors in neighbouring countries Zambia and Botswana, where they both have major interests.
Yet, Absa is still the service provider to clients of Bank Windhoek visiting South Africa and Bank Windhoek the same for Absa clients visiting Namibia. Whether this relationship will continue is yet to be seen.
New Era can also confirm with certainty that over the past three months, Absa has approached black Namibian executives in the banking and financial sector with an offer for the Chief Executive Officer position for Absa’s Namibian bank.
An enquiry with some of the executives – all senior people whose names are in possession of New Era – revealed that most of them have turned down the offer. None of them gave reasons for turning down the offer.
The refusal by the executives is hinted to be the reason the commercial bank is taking long to set up office.
Wadulu declined to enter into more details, saying: “We will give further details on this in due course.”
There are only four commercial banks in Namibia currently registered with the Bank of Namibia’s Banking Institutions Act.
They are Nedbank Namibia, Bank Windhoek, Standard Bank Namibia, and the First National Bank of Namibia.