Saturday, September 26, 2020

Commercial Banks also have to localize

It should be a matter of shame that with close to two hundred years in Botswana, some commercial banks doing business in Botswana are still to localize their top most positions.

May be there are reasons for that. But such reasons should be shared with everybody so as to understand.

It is not good enough that commercial banks would continue to look at a country which is an important source of their bottom line as a satellite office that can still be serviced from afar. And that is exactly what is happening in the banking sector.

We hope the time has come for the Central Bank to insist on commercial banks to submit with the Bank their verifiable programmes of localizing top positions.

We acknowledge that Botswana is part of the global village and as such there is nothing wrong with technical skills in these businesses being sourced from outside.

But in the same token, it has to be shown by the same banks how many citizens of Botswana they have produced who are now holding meaningful positions in such places as London, Middle East or the far East where real decisions are made.

It is only when citizens of Botswana are empowered and enabled to climb up the corporate ladder in the international companies that make a killing from this country that Botswana can hope to become a true player in the increasingly competitive international economy.

Everyone who follows the events in the capital markets would also know how the commercial banks in Botswana have, in a big way, restricted and stood in the way of the Botswana Stock Exchange reaching its full potential.

Only a tiny amount of the shareholding of these banks actually floats on the Botswana Stock Exchange for Batswana to be able to access.
A substantial shareholding is domiciled in London.
We have to contend with the patronizing attitude from banks from South Africa.

Some of them have steadfastly resisted all persuasion to open up to Botswana citizens by way of listing with the Botswana Stock Exchange.
There can never be any plausible reason for such attitude other than to close out Batswana, given that the BSE is credited as one of the best run bourses in Africa.

It is a matter of public record that even in some instances where localization is supposed to have taken place, such localization is little more than tokenism, with important decisions that matter still taken in London.

What the commercial banks in Botswana should also seriously consider is how going forward they intend to make Batswana true shareholders in their parent companies.

It is, however, unfortunate that a few citizens are participants in this evil practice.

These are citizens who are content with being given crumbs to sit on the boards of these banks or to front in any other capacity to provide a false cover that progress is being made.

Also to blame are some politicians who seem to be content with the public relations gimmicks by these banks that they have Corporate and Social Investments so much such that the politicians end up duped and not demanding serious involvement by citizens in the management of these institutions.
Banks in Botswana have to be made to appreciate that it is time they gave the country the necessary profile by way of appointing citizens commensurate with the profits the companies make from this country.

It is only then that the banks will be able to shed the negative public image that they are only here to make money with no regard to empowering.

This is not to dispute that banks have invested heavily in the form of their necessary infrastructure and, of course, employment at clerical and other menial staff.

But it is time we see Batswana entering the top echelons of these institutions.

These are not nationalist sentiments.

They are demands for an equal treatment as that offered other nations where these banks do business.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.