NANCY SIAME, Lusaka
THE Bank of Zambia (BoZ) is impressed with the growing banking sector as evidenced by the increasing number of commercial bank branches and agencies country-wide.
The number of commercial bank branches across the country now stand at 325 while those of agencies is at 60.
BoZ assistant director for examinations and surveillance Raphael Kasonde said it is BoZâ€™s expectations that such expansions will not only foster competition in the banking industry but also lead to improvements in the range of products and services offered in the market.
â€œThere is need to complement physical branch expansion with product innovation programmes that will capture a lot more unbanked people,â€ Mr Kasonde said at the official opening of the sixth AB Bank branch in Garden Township, in Lusaka recently.
He said it is also crucial that while banks design their products and services, consideration must also be given to the needs of the small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), which are regarded as important drivers in the economy.
Mr Kasonde commended AB Bank for opening a branch in Garden as there are a lot of SMEs in the township.
â€œThis explains the bankâ€™s determination to open a branch here in Garden residential where a good number of small-scale engineering businesses are located,â€ he said.
He also urged banks to reduce their lending rates as customers need access to affordable funds to finance their investments.
Speaking earlier, AB Bank chief executive officer Armando Sirolla said the bank has proudly contributed to the financial inclusion policy and has reached over 55,000 deposit clients with an average of K600 and almost 10,000 borrowers with an average loan size of K7,200.
Mr Sirolla said the numbers explain AB Bankâ€™s outreach and remarkable ground work.
â€œThe bank is planning to expand outside Lusaka this year with the opening of the Kitwe branch before the end of the year and the Chipata branch next year,â€ he said.
He said AB Bank decided to open a branch in Garden because of the townshipâ€™s vibrant business activities.
Mr Sirolla also thanked government for creating a favourable environment for the banks to operate in.
NANCY SIAME, Lusaka