Blue Financial Services, the biggest micro-lending outfit in Africa, listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange last week in its attempt to increase Batswana’s shareholding stake in the company.
Blue’s Chief Executive Officer, Dave Van Niekerk, said the listing marks a “significant milestone” to the company and its relationship with Botswana.
“Botswana has a special place in our heart. By listing we are giving our name to Batswana and giving back to Batswana,” he said.
“Presently Batswana have a stake of two percent in the company and we would like that to increase to about 10 percent,” he added.
As part of the plan, Blue has pledged to up-skill its Batswana employees by sending them to its other operation around the continent so that, when they come back, they can assume managerial positions.
Blue operates in 11 countries, namely: Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, among others. It is also planning to open in Nigeria, Rwanda and Cameroon.
Botswana contributes 15 percent to its annual profits by serving about 30, 000 customers while its work force stands at 150 people.
The pro-poor organization, with a raft of financial products, said its initiatives are aligned with the objectives of NEPAD (New Economic Partnership for Africa).
“By riding the current of the newly emerging middle-class in South Africa and neighbouring countries, Blue has opened previously untapped markets in the financial sector by providing legitimate financial solutions to those who previously were denied access to the market,” the company had said.
“Blue has found that traditional banking systems and banks as a whole in the African environment are not as advanced electronically as their peers in other areas of the globe, and they are not addressing a broad range of the needs of their customers.
“Sub-Saharan banks are very risk averse and, as such, many employers are forced to become involved in providing housing to their staff or providing benefits or credit that their personnel can not obtain elsewhere,” it added.
The provision of financial services in countries like Botswana, where close to 60 percent of the working people are said to be unbanked, is a critical factor as that population is shunned by the traditional banks.
The company is one of the major players in Botswana’s micro-finance, with two other major ones being the Botswana Stock Exchange-listed Letshego Holdings and Penrich Employee Benefits. The company is already tapping on government’s liberalization policy, which is geared towards automatic deduction of salaries from source that used to be tightly controlled.
Among some of the products that are being provided by the company are home improvements, funeral insurance, salary advances, pension and provident funds, payroll solutions and cellular solutions.
It said one of the biggest markets that it is serving includes that of South Africa, which is littered with a number of players but with risk averse attitudes.