Financial institutions and commercial banks have over the past few months been making notable forays into Botswana’s second city, Francistown.
The city is noted mostly for its mineral wealth, as it is surrounded by a number of mining industries that have immensely contributed to its infrastructural development, economic reincarnation, and influx of a number of businesses and service providers.
The mining boom also earned Francistown a number of high earning personnel, who ultimately attracted high profile shops and retailers, commercial banks and resulted in a hike in the city’s real estate price. At the peak of Francistown’s economic resuscitation, real estate developers were setting up high-end housing units with a view to servicing the skyrocketing demand in accommodation. Plans were underway to set up a top of the range golf course, complete with high cost town houses in the city. Even the city’s services sector upped their game as medical practitioners and physicians set up top of the range facilities in the city, offering services that we could only dream of a few years ago.
However, the city’s development spree was set back when the global economic recession bit, resulting in many of the mines retrenching, thus dampening the euphoria that was surrounding Francistown. Nevertheless, it seems there is a consensus that the economic recession will come to pass, and Francistown will return back to its glory days.
Optimism abounds that things will eventually get better.
This optimism is reflected in the exodus of financial institutions and commercial banks into the city. At the same time, Francistown is also slowly becoming the second venue, after Gaborone, for high profile corporate events and launches. Of course, it is a fact that venues like Tati River Lodge, Adansonia Hotel and The Cresta Residency in Marang also play a major role in making Francistown the ideal place to host such high profile events.
The BOCCIM Northern Trade Fair, for example, has evolved to become a high profile business indaba, attracting more and more high caliber business over the years. Last year, Francistown also played host to the prestigious National Business Council and yet another convention involving financial service providers.
All these developments point to a growing confidence in Francistown. Until a few years ago, the city was almost a forgotten part of Botswana with very little, if any, economic activity.
There are growing indications that financial services providers still retain a lot of confidence in Francistown and, even in the face of the present economic recession, most of them are continuing with their plans to set up shop in Francistown so that they will be in a better position to rip the profits when the economic meltdown fades away.
Recently, the Associated Fund Administrators who manage Pula Medical Aid scheme and Botswana Public Officers Medical Aid scheme also launched their Francistown branch.
Two of Botswana’s new commercial banks, Bank of Baroda and Capital Bank, have also set up shop in Francistown.
The move is largely regarded as the banks’ response to the increasingly appealing economic prospects of Francistown and its surrounding areas, the exodus of high earning personnel, the increase in development projects and the mushrooming of businesses in the city.
All of the banks come with one single objective, to bring services closer to the people and to tap into the growing economy of Botswana’s second city.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard indicates that Bank Gaborone will also have opened a branch in Francistown by next month. Bank Gaborone has already set up ATMs in strategic areas around the city.
At the same time major commercial banks like Barclays bank, Standard Chartered and First National bank are also looking to cement their presence in Francistown and refine their products and services to suit the increasingly complex needs of the northerners.
First National Bank Botswana last year hosted a lavish dinner to wine and dine mining industry executives in Francistown, apparently in a bid to tap into the business opportunities presented by the resurgence of the mining industry in the north and forge new relationships.
At the event, FNBB’s head of Mining and Public Sector, Pele Moleta, said that the resurgence of mining activities in and around Francistown has created a niche for the upliftment of living standards and expansion in the city‘s development. He added that FNBB, as a proactive bank, had found it fitting to avail their services to accommodate the growing mining sector and forge relationships with both the mining industry and its service providers and suppliers.
By hosting the dinner, FNBB was creating a platform for dialogue on issues pertaining to the needs of the fast growing mining industry and offering its services and financial solutions.
“The bank is committed to increasing its focus on building and enhancing customer relations by reaching out to existing and potential customers and sharing with them the bank’s value proposition for all products and services,” said Moleta.
At the event, the FNBB sales and marketing staff took the opportunity to engage customers on a one on one basis as a means of curtailing their products and services for their specific needs.
FNBB also embarked on an expansion program that saw them opening up new branches in areas like Selibe Phikwe. The bank’s second headquarters is presently under construction in Francistown.
Stanbic Bank, the fourth largest bank in the country, has also jumped onto the bandwagon of diamonds beneficiation financing. The bank’s executives have in the past revealed that they go after active sectors of the economy to be relevant to the development of the country. These include mining and energy.
At the same time, Stanbic was recently named as the preferred financial partner for the funding of the multi million-pula Morupule expansion project.
The P 123 million project, which is aimed at making the country energy self-sufficient by 2010, is aimed at expanding the capacity of the Botswana Power Corporation so that it could supply 80 percent of the country’s electricity demands.