Zimbabwe: ‘Disruption to lending has ended,’ Stanbic Bank top official says 

By Farai Shawn Matiashe
Posted on Monday, 27 June 2022 11:22

A security guard stands at the entrance of the Stanbic Bank in Abidjan, Ivory Coast April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Through the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, Stanbic Bank engaged the central bank to ensure the suspension of bank lending does not cripple their operations, Panashe Chitumba Stanbic Bank's head of risk and corporate affairs tells The Africa Report.

Given issues with cash flow, some businesses – including sugar manufacturing company Tongaat Huletts and dairy manufacturers Dairiboard Holdings – suspended advance sales and payments to contractors, triggering an increase in the price of foodstuffs.

While the ban was soon lifted, prices of basic commodities such as mealie-meal, bread and sugar have tripled and are now beyond reach for many Zimbabweans.

But as Panashe Chitumba, head of risk and corporate affairs, Stanbic Bank, says: “the negative impact of disruption to lending was minimal.

“The engagements between industry stakeholders and the regulator allowed appropriate dispensations….and the policy to be set aside after a period of 10 days. Access to lending facilities has been fully restored,” he says.

Lending to government, corporates and individuals is one of the banking institutions’ core businesses in the country and banning lending cripples the entire banking system. And as Chitumba tells The Africa Report, business at the bank continues to be solid and profitable, despite the deteriorating business operating environment in the country.

In 2021, Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe achieved inflation-adjusted profit after tax of Z$5.2bn ($10.4m using the current exchange rate), up 185% from Z$1.8bn ($3.6 m) in the previous year. In terms of capital, Stanbic Bank ended the year with a qualifying core capital of Z$11.3bn, up from Z$3.8bn in 2020.

Inflation

Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rose 131% in May from 96.4% in April this year, according to official statistics. But Chitumba says with respect to the high inflation environment, any business in Zimbabwe is focused on strategies to preserve value while at the same time ensuring that the business maintains a firm handle on costs.

We continue to invest heavily in the development and growth of our people as well as invest in tailor-making our products to address the requirements of our customers.

“Preserving value also requires good policies to retain critical skills and talent. We have continued to closely monitor the entire value chain in which we do business, focusing on the performance of suppliers, the behaviour of depositors and changing deposit trends, and borrowers and the factors which impact their businesses,” he says.

“We continue to invest heavily in the development and growth of our people as well as invest in tailor-making our products to address the requirements of our customers. This enables the business to proactively manage key factors in the operating environment and take corrective action in good time.”

Slow down

Nevertheless, Zimbabwe’s economy is expected to slow down this year due to an unfavourable agricultural season and other economic constraints such as foreign currency shortages and high inflation, says Chitumba.

Meanwhile, Stanbic Bank will remain close to the sectors that drive growth in Zimbabwe, which are mining, agriculture, infrastructure development, manufacturing and tourism.

“We firmly believe that Zimbabwe is our home and that we have a part to play in driving her growth. As a bank, we follow closely the policy developments, and the plans of our customers in order to provide required banking business and to facilitate activities in the economy,” he says.

Investigation

At the time of the bank lending suspension, Mnangagwa said his government was investigating those who were using the domestic currency through loans from banks to buy foreign currency at the parallel market rate causing the exchange rate to spiral out of control.

Speaking to his Zanu PF party supporters in Mudzi, a rural area in Mashonaland East, Mnangagwa claimed the central bank had given “hefty” penalties to 12 banks for their involvement in causing a spike in the exchange rate.

The southern African nation reintroduced its currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, a decade after using a multi-currency regime, mainly the United States dollar. But the local currency has been losing its value against the US dollar.

At the official exchange rate, the Zimbabwe dollar is trading at 1:325 against its benchmark the US dollar. In the parallel market, it is trading at 1:450 against the US dollar.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options