Intention By Bank to Pull Out of Africa Confounding

By Dominic Wamugunda

A story that has been narrated in the media in the last week or so has attracted my attention, and the other day I noticed that it seems to have two different versions.

I am talking about the report on Barclays Bank's intention to pull out of Africa. That was the first version. A second version has emerged suggesting that a shareholder of the main bank is, in fact, remaining in Kenya. I find that a little confusing and the CEO of Equity Bank seemed to echo that confusion when he wondered "who between the employer and the employee is right".

The banking industry has gone through a major revolution over the last decade or so.

I do remember a time when the big banks were closing smaller branches all over the country.

At some point they even introduced a limit below which an account in their bank would not be sustained.

The real shift came with the rise of local banks like Equity Bank, Family, Jamii Bora, Chase, CFC and so on.

The concept of "Banking the unbankable" certainly did a trick of its own kind. The numbers of those who could now access banking services increased overnight and, at that point, the banking culture entered a new and hitherto unknown phase.

I am sure many will remember the days when banks used to open their doors to customers at 9 am and close promptly at 3 pm. With the coming of the new - local - banks all this has changed. Now there are even branches that serve their customers throughout 24 hours.


The evolution of this culture has been given impetus by the phenomenal growth in communication technology. Today one does not have to go to their branch to withdraw money. ATMs are a very handy development which has made things much easier.

Money transfer technology through mobile telephony has also introduced a new twist to the manner in which many customers relate with their banks.

My view is that the things that have happened and which affect the way people relate with money have also affected the way banks perceive themselves.

Without doubt, banks have become less mysterious and much closer to more people.

I also think that some traditionally strong banks have been forced by the emerging patterns to violate their own traditions.

Source: All Africa