THE Bank of Zambia (BOZ) has called for the rolling out of banking and other financial services to rural areas to capture to the untapped market.
BOZ Director for Bank Supervision Gladys Mposha said Zambia was a geographically extensive country with sparsely populated areas and hence the need to bring financial services closer to the rural parts the country could not be overemphasised.
Ms Mposha said financial services played an important role in improving income-generating opportunities and overall living conditions among households.
She was speaking during the official launch of National Savings and Credit Bank (NATSAVE) Branch Kazungula Branch on Wednesday.
“One of the key barriers to consumption of financial services is distance to financial institutions.
“Since Zambia is a geographically extensive country with sparsely populated areas, the need to bring financial services closer to the rural parts the country cannot be overemphasised,” Ms Mphosa said.
She said BOZ attached great importance to all initiatives that seek to enhance the provision of financial services to the underserved sectors of the economy.
Ms Mposha said the central bank was delighted to note that NATSAVE had continued to extend its footprint across the country.
“The challenge to NATSAVE is to follow up the opening of this Branch with development of products and services that meet both the general and peculiar needs and requirements of Kazungula economy.
“On our part as BOZ, we will continue to support market development by providing an enabling environment for growth in the financial sector as a whole,” Ms Mposha said.
Finance Minister Alexander Chikwand launched a K4 million newly constructed NATSAVE Branch and staff houses in Kazungula District with a call for the business community to take advantage of the financial institution to access funds and create jobs for the locals.
In the few days NATSAVE Kazungula Branch has been operational, a total of K211, 000 has already been mobilised as deposits through the opening of 200 accounts while K70, 000 has been given out as loans.
Mr Chikwanda said he was certain that Kazungula Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) would take advantage of the presence of NATSAVE in Kazungula District to access funds and grow their businesses so that they were able to create jobs through the employment of local people.
He said it was also gratifying to learn that the bank had moved into the district with a microfinance programme targeted at micro entrepreneurs with a focus of boosting and empowering businesses which mainly cover trading, fishing and farming.
“Kazungula is a very unique district both economically and socially, as it borders three countries namely Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
“The centrality of Kazungula among all these countries brings forth various economic opportunities for the district. Therefore, NATSAVE’s opening of the first full-fledged bank in this area is a timely business decision carrying the first mover advantage which will benefit the bank and the people of Kazungula,” Mr Chikwanda said.
Mr Chikwanda said the Government had recognised the economic potential of Kazungula and that was why many developmental projects were currently under construction.
Some of the developmental projects under construction are Kazungula Bridge, District Hospital, 30 housing units, police station, office block for the council, District Commissioner’s office and Post Office.
Mr Chikwanda said the Patriotic Front (PF) was asking for another mandate and overwhelming support for President Edgar Lungu to be at the helm of the nation because the man was epitome of human
NATSAVE managing director Cephas Chabu said his bank had been well received in the area to provide affordable, appropriate and competitive financial products to boost the domestic economy of kazungula.
NATSAVE Board Vice chairperson Fred Siame said the opening of Kazungula Branch fulfilled the mandate that the Government had given the Bank to promote financial inclusion by taking banking services to all parts of the country especially in rural areas.