By Elizabeth Chukwuma
The amiable Kingsley Uzoka led Management of the United Bank For Africa plc, a Pan African Bank ,described as one of the most financially solid bank in Africa, appear to have kept to its promise of facilitating intra-African trade and Financial inclusion by providing premium services to its Customers through consistent innovation and relentless investment in technology. The Bank officials, according to Financial experts may have understood the importance of the intra-African trade and thus, have moved a step further to assist Customers do their business without tears.
The Bank had started with the launching of the Africash product services which facilities its intra-African money transfer services, where Customers could easily move money around for trade and investment within the Continent. The noticeable limitations in the operation of the Africash services such that Customers could only their financial conduct transactions only within their sun-regions in the African Continent, may have forced the bank officials to go back on the drawing board to improve on the service to meet the demand of businessmen , Micro, Small and Medium Scale, MSMS, entrepreneurs who are desirous to withdraw in any branch of the bank within the Continent.
Take for instance, the Africah serveice, Customers from countries in the CEMAC region, comprising of Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, CAR, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, popular, Zaire, and Equatorial Guinea, who could only access their bank accounts only in branches of UBA, anywhere within the region.
It was indeed, not really encouraging as it could not help many African businessmen and Traders , MSMEs, regarded as the engines of economic growth in the Continent to withdraw cash any of the deposit bank location within the Continent from their accounts to promote their business.
Always thinking ahead of its Competitors in the nation’s cheaqured Banking Industry, the UBA officials were said to have developed the UBA Connect, described in banking circles as the ‘’flagship product ’’ of the bank as it enables Customers of the bank to conduct their traditional banking transactions in any UBA branch in the 20 African countries where the bank operates. Note that the bank also has established presence in the United Kingdom, United States of America, USA, and France.
According to a top official of the bank, the ‘’UBA Connect service which is available to both Customers and non –customers of the UBA, is expected to encourage intra-African trade, as cash withdrawals can now be done in local currencies within the Continent . This is in addition to cash deposits which could also be made at any location of the bank regardless of where the account was domiciled.
Oliver alawuba, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, UBA Africa, who broke the cheery news recently said ‘’Africa stands to benefit substantially from the intra-African trade , which is facilitated by the easy flow of Capital within the Continent’’.
An elated Alawuba, noted that ‘’as a bank committed to creating superior value for all its stakeholders and Customers, it will remain ‘’focused in ensuring that it will continue to contribute significantly to the development of Africa by improving accessibility to Funds and trade with the new product: UBA Connect’’, among other innovative services.
The UBA Africa, ECO, further explained that the product will allow for easy transfers to UBA accounts across the African countries as well as cash deposit into the bank accounts at any of the locations in the African Continent. According to him the cash transactions will be dispensed to Customers in local Currencies at a Competitive exchange rates.
Dupe Olusola, the bank Group Head, Marketing, who has been instrumental in developing some of the product services designed to further market the bank both within and outside the country was said to have given an insight on the operation of the UBA connect to ensure that Customers will not experience any difficulty in the process.
‘’To use the service in Africa, a UBA Connect Send, Receive or Transfer Forms needs to be completed , with valid identification, particular, International Passport with valid VISA or Immigration Stamp , in the case of business men or Traders from the member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, sub-region.
Many believe that the UBA, regarded as the biggest Financial Institution in Africa, which could Compete with any other big bank in the world economy may have launched the UBA Connect to benefit significantly from the anticipated $35 billion volume of trade in Africa with the Launching of the Continental free Trade Area, CfTA, by the African Union, AU.
That much was confirmed by the Maritime News reliable source in the bank who disclosed that they were excited about the possibilities the future holds for intra-African trade , with the number of countries that have ratified the CfTA Agreement. According to the source since the Agreement will create a single African market of more than a billion Consumers with a total Gross Domestic Product, GDP, OF over 3 trillion , UBA, has no option but to reposition itself to support individuals and businesses in readiness for the takeoff of the CfTA ,to avoid being taken unawares.
Babatude Ruwase, President, Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry had alluded to the fact that CfTA , will go a long way to boost trade in the African Continent with a Population of about 1.2 billion and market size of about $3 trillion as it will allow member countries to specialize in their areas of Comparative Advantage at the last LCCI, Trade Fair, in Lagos.
This is good news for Nigerian manufacturing Companies , particular, Dangote Group of Companies, and other Cement manufacturer and other items in the country.Note that prior to the Launching of the CfTA, by AU, Cement manufacturers in Nigeria, particular, Group of Companies, c were not allowed to sell their item in Benin Republic, even though the two countries are members of the ECOWAS Trade Liberlisation Scheme, ETLS.
Also. Burkina Faso, another member of the West African sub-regional economic bloc was said to have also denied Nigerian Companies from selling certain products , like Linker in their country. .The country, according to the Magazine findings prefer to import the product from the Asian country of China , Turkey and other parts of the world instead of Nigeria which manufactures the product. Insiders informed the Magazine, that the landlocked country take delivery of the imported Linker product from the Port of Lome, Togo.
Given the huge amount spent by the UBA and other Financial Institutions , in Nigeria and other parts of Africa , in general , to acquire modern technologies that could connect all their bank branches throughout Africa and other parts of the world in order to benefit from the CfTA, through funding of intra-African trade, this is where the Authority of the Heads of States and Government must ensure compliance with the Trade Agreement guidelines by participating countries to avoid being another ETLS, which member countries had abandoned over the years to pursue their individual trade relationship with other countries outside the ECOWAS sub-region.