The positive impact of African foreign nationals on the South African economy is being recognized by the African Bank which is breaking ground in the banking sector by making loans available to refugees.
African Bank’s move bucks the trend where African foreign nationals battle to obtain banking services in South Africa, to the extent where many find themselves unable to open bank accounts.
African Bank’s spokesperson Louise Brugman yesterday said they were the country’s “largest unsecured lender” and were constantly looking for means to “innovate our product offerings to better serve our current customers”.
“Based on our experience of offering credit to foreign nationals in the mining sector and the growth of foreign nationals contributing to the broader South African economy, we saw how the foreign market was being underserved and acted on the opportunity”.
She said it was their “belief that foreign nationals that contribute positively in our societies, deserve an equal opportunity to improve their lives”.
She said for a foreign national to be considered for a loan they would need to provide a valid passport, three months of bank statements from a local bank, pay slip and a valid South African residence.
Brugman said the minimum amount offered to a qualifying foreign national was R100 while the maximum was R20 000 and “flexible repayment terms go up to 36 months”.
She said they had thus fare disbursed over 6000 loans but ensured that a “stringent risk and affordability analysis is conducted for every customer”.
Langton Miriyoga, a paralegal officer at refugee lobby group People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (Passop) said this development was new to them.
He said they would need to find out more information from the bank before they could comment further.
Marilize Ackerman, advocacy officer at refugee non-profit organisation Scalabrini Centre said: “in principle, it’s a wonderful move”.
She said refugees and asylum-seekers had difficulty opening accounts with banks because they found it difficult for the Department of Home Affairs to verify the authenticity of their identity documents as required by the banks.
However, she said refugees from warring countries such as Somalia may still find it difficult to obtain a loan from African Bank because they often fled without traveling documents and passports. – Francis Hweshe