Windhoek-Standard Bank, the only commercial bank that has operated in Aussenkehr Valley in the //Kharas Region for the past 13 years, recently unveiled a modern banking facility to the tune of N$4.5 million.
Standard Bank’s Chief Executive Vetumbuavi Mungunda and the owner of Aussenkehr Farms, Dusan Vasiljevic officially opened the new Aussenkehr Branch on 6 December 2017.
Aussenkehr Valley is a leading exporter of table grapes to major world markets. The area is also home to up to 20 000 inhabitants who work in the grape industry. With over 2 000 hectares under grape production in the valley, Mungunda noted that this was a successful example of private sector investment driving the emergence of new economic activities and growth in the country.
“The valley of Aussenkehr has grown and is growing fast and is a welcome development for foreign exchange earnings, creation of employment and the creation of downstream economic activities such as the retail sector. It also means that critical amenities and services such as housing, roads, schools and banking services have to follow these developments,” said Mungunda.
He thanked the investors in the Aussenkehr Valley for their pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit in developing a new industry and economic sector from scratch. Mungunda noted that grape production and grape farming are an example of the new approach to Namibia’s potential in terms of agricultural and food production.
“This is indeed a private sector-driven industry where private money is invested in a venture that has proven successful and sustainable, and this should be the recipe for Namibia’s approach to economic development, government allowing and enabling private-sector driven investments with the availing of key infrastructure developments as well as market access,” said Mungunda.
He said over the last two years Standard Bank has identified the need to establish new banking facilities in other towns like Okongo, Karibib, Gobabis, Omuthiya and Okakarara to complement the private sector’s drive.
“As a bank, we need to provide inclusive banking by supporting these economic activities and the customers migrating to Aussenkehr. It is for this reason that we saw the need of opening our first branch here in an old warehouse building in 2004. It is this pioneering spirit, which pushed us to open the branch then despite operating from a makeshift structure. We were able to take the lead in responding to the banking need in developing this valley,” added Mungunda.
He also encouraged the grape companies to support the bank’s flagship Buy-a-Brick Initiative geared towards raising funds to build decent houses for no-or-low-income communities, as “it will be great to help build 50 or 60 new houses for the people living here in Aussenkehr”.
Welcoming the opening of the new branch, Vasiljevic, thanked Standard Bank for being the first to invest in the valley’s potential.
“Many years ago there was nothing here in Aussenkehr, no electricity, no roads… However, Standard Bank was the first to give banking services to our people in a small office. During the last two decades, the grape producers who came grew the area exponentially to what it is today. Aussenkehr is unique in the world and unique in what we have achieved in a country like Namibia – this is what private sector investment is all about. I would like to therefore urge our grape workers to continue using our new banking facility here as we strive to continue to grow together,” said Vasiljevic.
At the same occasion, some of the grape-producing farmers welcomed the much bigger and modern banking facility.
“It’s very good for us, your staff are always very helpful as we are not always the easiest customers,” said Deidre Goussard of Silverland Namibia. Also commending Standard Bank for the banking facility, Larry Gonteb of Namibia Grape Company and Capespan Namibia said, “All our seasonal workers are with Standard Bank and seeing that it’s a much bigger branch, more customers can be accommodated.”
The new Standard Bank Aussenkehr branch is located at the town’s main new shopping centre, which opened in January this year.