Saturday March 19 2016

Here’s why we need a national bank

By Kavuma-Kaggwa

By and large It is now official that Barclays Bank is pulling out of Uganda and Africa. This now offers a great opportunity for Uganda to setup a National Bank of Uganda.

A national bank will reduce Uganda’s dependence on foreign banks. Right now there are 25 commercial banks operating in the country but only two, Centenary Bank and Crane Bank, are indigenous banks. Economically, that gives a very shameful picture for Uganda, a country which has been Independent since 1962.

History tells us that Barclays traces its origins back to 1690 when John Freame, a Quaker, and Thomas Gould started trading as goldsmith bankers in Lombard Street, London.

The name “Barclays” became associated with the business in 1736, when James Barclay, the son-in-law of John Freame, one of the founders, became a partner in the business.

Barclays Bank started operating in Uganda in 1927 and it was called Barclays Bank (DCO) and it had an emblem of a flying Eagle.

Those three letters (DCO), stood for; “Dominion, Commonwealth and Overseas” and at that time the former British Empire had firmly taken root in Africa and elsewhere in the World.

Barclays Bank had two branches; one in Kampala and one in Jinja which was being developed as the second biggest town in Uganda and as the centre of tourism in Uganda because of the Source of the River Nile.

Uganda gained Independence in 1962 and Barclays Bank formed a Local Board in 1966. The business was one of the first in Africa to be incorporated locally.

With President Milton Obote’s Ugandanisation policy, Barclays Bank Uganda came into being on November 1, 1969, with DCO holding 51 per cent and the Government of Uganda holding 49 per cent. At that time there were nine full branches and 33 other offices.

In 1970, the Uganda branch of the Commercial Bank of Africa was absorbed into Barclays Bank, and in 2007 the Nile Bank was also acquired by Barclays Bank.

It has been reported that after pulling out of Africa, Barclays Bank will concentrate on Banking in Europe and America.

Looking at the situation, you can see that once a national bank is set up, it will automatically absorb all that highly skilled manpower that might in one way or another have been rendered redundant.

I have said that the creation of a national bank will reduce our dependence on foreign-owned banks. What we should know now is that, a locally owned bank will very much understand the social conditions and needs of Ugandans and it will always be with the people and help them.

One thing which people should know is that, foreign banks are making extremely huge profits every year in Uganda.

Think about a situation where each one of the 23 foreign banks made a profit of Shs150 billion and the whole amount was transferred to their home countries, what was left here?

Why should Uganda be the source of income for other countries? Why should a Ugandan struggle to make money from January to December and almost the whole of it is taken away by foreign banks?

What I want the people of Uganda to understand very clearly, is that if we had a national bank, much of that money would remain here.

Finally, I appeal to all the new Members of Parliament and the Cabinet which President Museveni will soon appoint, to think seriously about setting up the said bank.

Kenya is a good example, it has two commercial Banks which operate both internally and externally, these are Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Equity Bank. There is also the National Bank of Kenya, which operates within Kenya only.

KCB is operating within the East African region and South Sudan, Zambia, Mauritius and Somalia. The Equity Bank is also operating within the East African Region.

In Uganda it has branches all over the country, even in the small towns in the remote areas of Uganda, you will find Equity Bank. One would think it is the National Bank of Uganda because it is everywhere in the country. Something must be done between now and 2021.

Mr Kavuma-Kaggwa is an elder from Kyaggwe.