Turmoil in the Banking Industry

TANZANIANS are playing with fire in the banking industry, as each passing day it is being underlined that they cannot be trusted with money, if a foreign supervisor or a local non-indigenous official takes his gaze away for a brief minute. When bank robberies take place it is a bit rare that they are authentically organised from outside and actually taking people by surprise inside the banks, and instead robberies are an indigenous festival of some sort. It is organised by a well represented stakeholder list from inside the bank and among police officers.

What happens as insider jobs where bank officials would already have stashed money somewhere and then pretend that at one point a big sum of money was stolen in a bag has its other illustrations, especially in gold mining. Villagers near minefields especially in North Mara regularly organise hunting raids the way they organise cattle raids, move into an open cast mine and scramble for gold dust that can be found within a few hours and then storm out. They may pay a single police guard or put him out of action, especially if they target a sand pile or strong room.

These developments are worrying because they tend to underline an emerging division between a local professional class that is tied up with commercial strata often with non-indigenous roots, and the others. While the former are expected to see locally registered banks as their own, even if they only have an employment but feel they are bankers and would wish for that enterprise to grow with the economy, and of course their own lives and families, the others are different. They are merely looking for opportunities to rob, seeing the future in a house to rent built later, etc.

What is worse is that this lack of faith among a widening section of local banking officials (for they are not strictly speaking, bankers) is a well oiled habit that is fully shared with the police, always available to help with such heists, knowing a fat cut will follow. Top level police officials at the zonal and regional level just find all of this embarrassing, and experience shows that authorities will do more to bury embarrassing incidents than to pursue and prosecute them, for that way the shame shall linger on. It means a palm of impunity gradually covers such cases; the next case covers up the previous one, until no one shall be following any of it.

The core reason for this state of affairs is the lack of comprehension of what is known as corporate citizenry, which has been grasped in a lopsided manner so far, that is, a situation where big companies contribute generously to the surrounding communities to build social services. This welfare notion of citizenry retains the sharp divide of investors and local people, and within the company that same view predominates, in which case professional personnel do not see themselves as part of the company, but hired hands. They seek an opportunity to strike it big, and have plenty of infrastructural support outside, notably due to law and order chaos.

Foreign companies and top managements running banks at the local level are now getting to be aware that if one wishes for security at a certain level in company or bank accounts, only a foreign professional can do.  No one can of course say that all local professionals will arrange heists after misplacing steady piles of Sh10m piles of banknotes and geting out of office with the cash in laptop cases. But if the tendency is increasingly noticeable, what else can one expect foreign shareholders and managers can do about reality but to seal off sensitive desks using foreigners?

With emerging structures of the East African Common Market where it will no longer be necessary for Kenyans, Ugandans, Rwandese and Burundians to get work permits in order to be hired, it is easy to see where the next generation of bank sector professionals will be picked. Local Asiatic professionals will be the leading cadre followed by regional citizens with adequate qualifications, not to speak of local weaknesses when it comes to training or making in depth analytical evaluation. Often they carry a Development Studies burden making them hate the business as exploitative or imperialist, instead of seeing its economic significance.