By Alhagie F.S Sora
West African Bankers Association (WABA) in partnership with the Gambia Bankers Association (GBA) yesterday, Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 held the 65th ordinary meeting of its Executive Council at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. The meeting which brought together members of these two organisations was aimed at revisiting their policies and past activities as well as to formulate sustainable strategies to improve on the banking sector’s performance.
Mr. Macoumba Njie, the Gambia Bankers Association President and also the Managing Director of Trust Bank Gambia Limited (TBL), in his remark, said some of the functions and activities of their association are to foster the exchange of ideas and experiences in the banking and monetary fields mainly by organizing seminars, conferences and also short courses for promoting consultation among banks on themes that are relevant for development and strengthening of the West African Banking Sector.
Mr. Njie said it is in line with strengthening the financial sector that these objectives were formulated so as to enable the operators in the region to jointly and severally have stronger financial institutions which are necessary to foster development. He said the integration of the sub-region that is on course cannot ignite without a stable banking sector for the sub-region, adding that the sector must be guarded against situations that can erode this stability. He said the banking sector is committed to regional integration and that in the past ten years or so, they have witnessed banks’ shareholders investing in banking across the West African sub-region. He said it is such tangible economic activities that solidify unity in the sub-region.
“As part of its ongoing activities, I noted with satisfaction that WABA is undertaking the issue of the cross border payments system which would have a tremendous effect on intra-regional trade in the sub region. I am happy to be part of this meeting to gain further insight into this development. We, who make up the Banks in The Gambia, are also happy with the platform that WA BA provides for us to collaborate to create healthy competition,” said the GBA President.
Mr. Njie stressed that the West African sub-region needs a robust financial system to harness its rich attributes which, he said, includes, a low cataclysmic risk profile where natural disasters rarely occur, politically stable states endowed with rich natural resources and willing to imbibe the principles of good governance and transparency. Above all, he added, there is a growing middle class, well educated and poised to be entrepreneurs in their own right, resulting in a strong labour force with a growing youth population to reinforce the labour market.
For his part, Mr. Eddy Ogbogu, the President of WABA, expressed his delight to be associated with the team of experts and expressed hope that the meeting will serve the purpose it is meant for. He lauded the presence of the governor of the Central Bank of the Gambia which, he said, showed the importance he attaches to the goals of WABA which was created by governors of the Central Banks of West African states 33 years ago.
The WABA President also used this occasion to inform the gathering that the next meeting of the committee of governors slated at the later part of this month will be held in Dakar, Senegal and will be focusing on the cross border payments system project which has been jointly developed by WABA and the ECOWAS Commission to be presented to the committee of governors for adoption. He urged all of them to be present at the said meeting.
Mr. Ogbogu stressed the importance of developing the corresponding banking relationship amongst banks through the establishment of a cross border payment system in the sub-region which, he said, would lead to local letters of credit being established in support of intra regional trade instead of undertaking tripartite arrangements with banks in Europe and America.
The WABA President said as part of the priority issues, he is urging the participants to look at the membership subscription as the most urgent need of the association for sustainability. He concluded by saying that for the association to perform better, there is need for active participation of members in all the discussions.
Mr. Amadou Colley, the Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia in his opening statement, said the hosting of this meeting in the Gambia is a ringing endorsement of the strong ties between WABA and The Gambia Bankers Association. He said Banks are extraordinary institutions not only for what they do, but what they can do He added that Banks are the brain of the economy and they allocate resources to where they are productively and better utilized so that these resources can be channeled to their most productive use, monitor the use of funds, facilitate trading and ease the exchanging of goods and services.
The CBG Governor said under the auspices of the West Africa Monetary Zone (WAMZ), Member States are committed to integrate their financial systems. He saluted the critical role WABA is playing in this endeavor and the efforts to build upon the success. He added that the Gambian banking system has undergone rapid development over the past fourteen years, from only 5 banks in 2000 to 12 in 2014. He said assets, deposit liabilities and private sector credit as a percentage of GDP rose significantly.
Governor Colley said the Central Bank of the Gambia is unreservedly committed to the further deepening of the banking sector by adhering to the precepts of sound economic management to ensure sustained macroeconomic stability and development of the financial infrastructure. He finally commended WABA and the GBA for their foresight in coming out with such a wonderful initiative for the sub region.