As part of its reorganisation and growth strategy, Opportunity Bank of Malawi (OBM) has launched its new small and medium enterprises (SMEs) banking approach to extend its outreach.
Speaking at a function held at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe on Friday, OBM chief executive officer Kwanele Ngwenya said the bank is committed to pursuing excellence in banking by narrowing the gap between the banked and unbanked.
He noted that this new focused approach will enable OBM to provide extended banking services and products specifically designed for the vibrant SMEs market needs.
Said Ngwenya: “The introduction of our SME banking unit is in response to the market demand. It is vital for OBM to become an inclusive and accessible bank to all. The newly-established OBM SME banking unit will focus on delivering products and services that are truly responsive to our customers’ needs both existing and prospective.”
He said the bank acknowledges that SMEs have an important role to play towards a healthy economy, alleviating poverty and national prosperity.
Ngwenya said by introducing the approach, the bank will help make a difference in the transformation of the banking sector and economic development of the country.
Trade experts say the SME sector is regarded as one of the key drivers for most successful economies in terms of creating employment and fostering innovation.
Not many banks aspire to adopt an SME centric approach because of the challenging market dynamics.
OBM has taken this approach in gaining market understanding to see the world from an SME perspective and continues to explore other opportunities that will benefit customers and the economy.
A 2012 Finmark Trust Finscope SME Survey found that there were 758 118 small business owners in the country operating a total of 987 480 enterprises and employing over one million people.
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) president Karl Chokhotho commended OBM for launching the SME product at a time businesses are failing to grow due to high inflation rate, high corruption, huge arrears owed to various sectors within the private sector, poor utilities with no short-term solutions in view, among others.
“Small and medium enterprises are important in all economies and more so in developing economies such as Malawi. As MCCCI, we would like to encourage banks and other firms in all sectors to support SMEs,” he said.
Figures show that the SMEs sector in Malawi supports the largest proportion of the population. n