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NATSAVE celebrates 40 years of financial empowerment to rural households
17 January 2013, 11:44:02
However, by the late 90’s NatSave was facing the worst of times, following the liberalization of the financial sector, it witnessed its customer base dwindle as more foreign players entered the market offering higher interest and exchange rates as well as high income on treasury bills and foreign exchange dealing.

During this period parastatals and agricultural cooperatives were privatised as government’s role in the sector reduced. This made rural banking unattractive and international banks closed their rural branches while NatSave experienced serious financial distress at the time.

Had the then minister of Finance, Edith Nawakwi, not recapitalised NatSave’s operations giving it a new lease of life we might be telling a different story today.

Since then the bank has not wavered. NatSave has grown its branches from 9 at recapitalisation to 12 to its current count of 28 nationwide. Of these branches, 16 are in the rural areas with 12 in urban cities.

Government has commended NatSave’s outreach to the rural communities. Chief economist Dr Fortune Kamusaki speaking on behalf of the guest of honour, deputy minister, Ministry of Finance and National Planning, Miles Sampa, said, NatSave was founded to ‘serve the interests of the local population that were not being met by international banks who dominated the financial market at that time.

‘In the 2010 census, it was established that 62% of our population lives in the rural areas. Therefore, a  bank, which makes strides taking financial services to rural areas, as NatSave is doing, should be commended. Some of the areas they have reached have serious infra-structure challenges, but the bank has been courageous and determined to fulfill their mandate. Studies have proved that there is a very strong relationship between financial development and economic growth. Therefore, for our rural areas to develop, they need financial services.’

Reiterating a similar message was acting director, Non-Banking department, Gladys Chongo Mposha, who was representing the deputy governor-operations, Dr Bwalya Ng’andu.

While congratulating NatSave on reaching the milestone of 40 years, she said,‘Savings play a crucial role in any economy’s growth and development. As at end of 2011, domestic savings in Zambia, represented by total deposits were estimated at K18 trillion.

‘While approximately 97% of these saving are held in commercial banks, the non-bank financial institutions such as NatSave have equally played a significant role, particularly through targeting the peri-urban and rural areas as well as the low middle income household. However, the level of savings is low at 19.7% of GDP and there is therefore significant scope to increase the level of saving in the economy.’

NatSave managing director, Cephas Chabu said, ‘Our strategy for branch expansion and development of affordable financial products confirms our resolve to contribute to financial inclusion in this country.’

In addition, Chabu announced the roll out of 15 NatSave automated teller machines (ATMs) at a cost of K2.3 billion, along the line of rail and designated provincial centres. These will be complimented by 100 ATMs on the Zamlink switch allowing NatSave customers to access their funds from other switch member’s banks.

Chabu also announced the roll out of a pilot empowerment programme for vulnerable adolescent girls called ‘Girls Dream Saving Account’ which encourages saving for girls between the age of 10 to 19 year olds. This program will target young girls from urban, peri-urban, and rural areas in Zambia and aims to reach a total of 12,000 girls by the end of the 4-year intervention.  

The program is coordinated by Population Council and funded by the UK Department for International Development that focuses on building social, economic and health assets amongst vulnerable adolescent girls in Zambia.  

Population Council representative, Natalie Jackson Hachonda, said, ‘The girls will be taken through a financial education curriculum during weekly group meetings in their communities, teaching them skills on money management, financial goal setting, budgeting, financial negotiation and prioritizing their spending.’

She said, ‘Helping girls to build sustainable assets is expected to enable girls to take greater control of their lives and lead to increased educational attainment, fewer unwanted pregnancies, less HIV infection, and increased income generation.  All of these effects in young women have been shown to ultimately be critical steps on the path to poverty reduction.’

Guests at the anniversary heard from Michael Mbulo, from the Rural Finance Programme, who spoke of how his organisation was working with NatSave to improve the livelihood of rural households through increased use of sustainable financial services in rural areas.

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