|IMF Representative to The Gambia |
Mr Meshack Tunee Tijorongo
Monday, February 13, 2012
GAMBIAN BANKS IN TROUBLE: PROFITABILITY DECREASES, NON-PERFORMING LOANS INCREASE
The 13 banks in The Gambia, competing for less than 25% of the country’s 1.8 million people, are undergoing some turbulent times as their profitability drops while non-performing loans increase, a report compiled by the International Monetary Fund has revealed.
“With 13 banks competing for a small customer base, competition is fierce resulting in narrow profit margins,” the IMF Country Report of the Gambia, given to local journalists in Banjul on Thursday, has stated. “Non-performing loans have increased from 5 per cent of total loans and advance in 2005 to 14.5 per cent at end 2010.”
Commercial banks in The Gambia are going though some touch time more than ever before as their loans and advances portfolio continue to swell while increasing sums of monies given out as loans to customers continue to remain as bad debts or non-performing loans, which are debts not likely to be paid, giving rise to banks losing millions of dalasis in profits.
Total earnings for the banking sector as a whole was negative in 2009, provision for loan losses increased and the level of non-performing loans also increased.
The IMF report states that from 2007 to 2009, return on asset and return on equity dropped from 4.5 per cent to -1.6 per cent and from 36.4 per cent to -24.9 per cent, respectively. However, the report added that the banks began to pick-up in 2010 owing to their efforts to improve their portfolios.
The IMF cautioned that although the banks are generally well capitalized and liquid, system-wide averages can mask potentials problems in individual banks.
The Fund encouraged the Central Bank of the Gambia (CBG) to conduct more frequent on-and-off-site supervision based on financial indicators for prompt corrective action.
However, the report says the IMF is helping the CBG to expand its toolkit for banking supervision stress-testing capability. It recommended that CBG should continue to strengthen financial stability.
The influx of banks in The Gambia over the years has made the country a highly competitive financial sector in Africa. Due to the intense competition in the country’s banking industry, the IMF indicates that the banks’ profitability has eroded and is likely to erode further. It points out that the banks’ overhead and staff cost had all increased and also the power of wholesale depositors to negotiate higher deposit interest rates contributed to eroding profits.