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UBA CAMEROON, MD/CEO,  JUDE ANELE: Why UBA remains giant of Africa

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The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the UBA Cameroon, Jude Anele, a seasoned banker whose depth in the industry has over the years earned him international appeal. In this interview with a team of Naija Diaspora Magazine, he dwells on the operations of the UBA and the bank’s relationship with the Cameroon public.

Excerpts:

We want to congratulate you and the bank on your key contribution to the construction of stadia for the African Cup of Nations that just wrapped up. What motivated you to be part of this expensive venture?

As you may know, UBA is known as Africa’s global bank, it is also a pan-African bank. The UBA group chairman is also a pan-Africanist himself. One thing also is that in all the 20 countries where UBA operates, we are local in these countries, we are not just a foreign bank, we are local and indigenous in every part of our operations.

We seek the dividends, potentials of the countries where we operate. Therefore, in keeping with our policy and focus for developing Africa, in terms of infrastructure, UBA believes so much in Cameroon, and we believe that joining hands with the government can actually take Cameroon to a greater height.

This was the real motivation behind the financing of the AFCON Olembe stadium rated as one of the best in Africa. It remains a major achievement as Cameroon incidentally hosted the AFCON last in 1972, and this is 50 years after, and for us in UBA, Cameroon remains a grand event that needs to be supported and make a huge impact.

It was also a big opportunity for Cameroon to display its potentials to the world and I am happy it went successfully. So, I also congratulate the government of Cameroon for giving the African continent a memorable event. We are proud to associate with the people and government of Cameroon. And it is something UBA will like to replicate in the coming AFCON.

In close to two years as MD/CEO of UBA Cameroon, you have championed many initiatives to empower and support the local economy. What inspires this and how successful have these been?

In terms of my career history, I have focused more in the retail space, especially individuals and SMEs. They say SMEs, Small and Medium Enterprises actually constitute the engine room of any economy because they actually offer the highest level of employment in all economies; in terms of every economic sector or industry, at the heart of it, the critical middle is where SME exists.

However, why many sub-Saharan Africa countries struggle is that the SMS sector is a challenged space. It is not a well-funded sector because it is not well structured. If we are to transform this, then we will be directly transforming the economy of the particular geography like Cameroon.

Let’s take Cameroon for example, a country rich in primary products like crude oil, cocoa, coffee, wood and others but we find out that every day if you check the major roads, you will see trailer loads of wood heading to the port to be shipped out of the country. This is the same thing for cocoa, coffee and other primary products. Very little value is added here.

Therefore, you will ask yourself, the price of raw cocoa in the international market fluctuates, but the price of chocolate does not, so the people that are actually transforming the cocoa thus adding value to the chocolate, are those making the most profit. So why can we not produce other secondary products with the cocoa that adds value before exporting them? Statistically, if we take one step forward by processing the cocoa bean into a paste, it has already added 30% value to the product.

It is for this reason that we are working with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of SMEs to help the SME segment that takes care of value addition for cocoa, coffee, wood etc.; to provide machinery that will help in the transformation of these local products. Not only big companies should handle this, SMEs across the country closer to the grassroots can be empowered to carry out transformation and this will change lives for thousands. We need to promote more on the cottage industry, which is what UBA is trying to do. We are also working with the Ministry of Youth Affairs because as you all know, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) focuses on entrepreneurship a lot.

We are trying to create a name between small and medium entrepreneurs. Here, I am referring to young people leaving school; provide them a capital to start business so that they can also fill into this area, so we are having a handshake between the graduates of Tony Elumelu Foundation grants and those who want to get involved, especially those young men and women with bright ideas.

We believe that once you are able to touch and fundamentally change things in that critical segment of SMEs, you will transform an economy without firing a shot. So those are the critical areas that UBA is focussing on now.

Apart from supporting the state of Cameroon in the construction of sports infrastructure, what should the citizens expect as the bank has established great trust in the country?

Like I said earlier, we are still working with the government and corporate entities to develop infrastructure. Going back to what I said about SMEs, part of the challenge SMEs are having, especially those in rural areas is access roads and sometimes you find these products get bad before getting to the town where they are sold or exported, as the case may be. So, we are involved significantly in this infrastructure development in Cameroon when it comes to roads, including the development of the ports. We are also working with the port authorities to see how we can develop them. We believe so much in these infrastructures, we know it has multiplier effects on small businesses in all regions in the country.

What you will see UBA doing in a few years is heavy involvement in infrastructure development working with the government of Cameroon.

There have been complaints from small business owners over difficulties in accessing loans. What do you have to say about especially as an expert in SMEs?

This is a good question, and it is always a constant question when it comes to discussions around SMEs. If you ask anybody the greatest challenge SMEs have, they will tell you access to finance is the number one problem. But most times, people don’t go further to ask ‘why is access to finance, a problem?’

I will tell you today most SMEs don’t keep their daily records, I mean records of sales. If a bank is going to lend money to you, this is money placed in the bank in trust by depositors.

If you look at the capital of the owners of a bank and compare it to the deposit the bank is using to do business, most times the capital is not up to 10% and sometimes less than 5%.

So, we are using other people’s money to lend, and there’s a financial responsibility to ensure that you lend this money to those that can pay back. If you deposit your money in the bank today and come tomorrow for it, I don’t have the right not to pay you because the man I lent your money to has not paid back.

Book keeping is very important so that when you come to the bank to borrow, you must show evidence of sales. This will give the bank the opportunity to vet the sales and your daily records will give you the opportunity to borrow a certain amount of money at the end. These are disciplines required in every trade. So, I will be able to know your cash flow and based on that I will know how much money I can lend you and for how long, in terms of tenure. Most SMEs don’t keep their books. Secondly, most SMEs are not well structured, in terms of governance, so you find out that most of them are one man businesses, so there’s what we called key man risk. The life expectancy of the average male in Cameroon today is about 57-60, so the death rate at that level is high. Of course, it is normal; it is even higher in some countries. In Nigeria, it is actually 54 for the male.

Succession is very critical in doing business. If I am going to lend money to you, I will want to see a structure that says if you are not there, someone can take over from you. You don’t find such structure and governance. The same person will be CEO, MD, head of human resources, financial officer and all that. If something happens to him, the business runs into trouble, no bank will take another man’s money and lend to someone you are not sure of.

Thirdly, there’s also what we call scale. Most business are starting as small scale, but when it comes to going into the next level, they begin to struggle and the reason they struggle is that they are not able to develop their markets well.

 This is where technology comes in, you have a shop and it’s just a shop front, until people come to the front of your shop, they won’t know you are there but with the advantages of technology and e-commerce, you can actually advertise your businesses on Facebook and other marketable platforms and the whole world is seeing it and they can buy from you. You also need to make that transition to e-commerce to increase the size of your market. And from what I have said so far, you can see why most banks don’t lend to them.

A lot of people will tell you about collateral, they will tell you the reasons banks don’t lend is collateral, that’s actually not very true. Any good lender focuses on cash flow, because collateral will not repay your loan. Banks focus on cash flow, not collateral. That’s why I started with book keeping so that I can see you have discipline on your cash flow.

So, what UBA is doing differently here is to have the financial service which will enable you to open a current account and put you on all the digital platforms; that’s the first part of it.

The second part is called non-financial which is capacity building; that capacity building is where we do seminars, webinars in these days of COVID-19, and we begin to coach using experts on how to keep your books, to keep records of your financial activities, how to showcase your products, how to create governance and structure where you work so that there could be successor.

After finishing with this process, you will be certified with a certificate that qualifies you to come and borrow; and once you actually come to borrow after passing through our capacity building experience, you will actually borrow at a lower rate, those are the things we used to de-risk the SMEs. Therefore, it is not true that banks do not give loans but most of these SMEs do not present bankable documents to access loans and that is just the truth. And that’s why UBA focuses on capacity building for SMEs. We have a special SMEs team; we call them Small Business Advisors in UBA and they are well trained in this area. They actually do quick audits of your books as a trader and advise you on financial issues.

What inspired the bank to choose Samuel Eto’o Fils as its brand ambassador, especially when the decision was taken during the just concluded Total Energies AFCON 2021?

Eto’o Fils is a great son of Africa; he has made a name in Europe, Asia and Africa. Eto’o Fils was instrumental in getting UBA to finance the stadia in Japoma and Olembe. He went round the country encouraging banks to invest in Cameroon. He actually did have discussions with our Group Chairman, Mr. Tony Elumelu to support Cameroon in the AFCON, which we did well. You could see there’s a link to that.

As a standalone person, he qualifies to be the face of UBA Cameroon. In addition to that, he’s actually a great son of Cameroon, he took it upon himself years before he became the President of Cameroon FA to be championing for the hosting of the concluded AFCON 2021.

At some point, the AFCON was almost close to be postponed again if Eto’o had not put down his feet that Cameroon must host the competition in January. For UBA, we have made the right choice for the right person to be the face of the bank.

He’s also the face of the youths, they love him; everyone talks about Samuel for being a wonderful person. We believe that Eto’o Fils’s face represents the future of Cameroon and we are aligning with that. We believe in the same philosophy; he’s also a philanthropist in many ways which is what the UBA foundation focuses on.

We also noticed that the UBA Group Chairman, Tony Elumelu was here during the Total Energies AFCON finals as special guest of the Head of State of Cameroon, what was his mission?

He came to congratulate President Biya for hosting a successful competition. He also came to stand with the people of Cameroon and to explore the success of the AFCON to the economic development of the country.

We also discussed with the government that UBA is expanding, we are planning to open 12 new branches across the country, which is almost what we have done in the past 15 years. That shows how aggressive UBA wants to be in Cameroon.

We also want to construct our head office in Douala and a regional office for the central African region in Yaoundé. In the same light, we requested the support of the government in order to get space to set up these structures. It is just a signal that UBA has come to stay in Cameroon.  In other areas of collaboration, as you know, the group chairman is involved in other areas like oil and gas, hospitality and others, not only in the banking sector. We also talked about how we could come up to expand the economy of the country through other ways in making life better for the people.

What’s your message to your valued customers?

Our philosophy is customer first, we don’t only provide solutions to customers, we also design the solutions with the participation of the customers and that’s why I can say we can always get better. We are also trying to be flexible even though we are a regulated entity. We have a 70-year-old heritage; that’s a good experience, so we know how to satisfy customers. We are as agile as a 15-year-old when it comes to digital technology; we are actually the best in Cameroon. We are a digital native despite the age.

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SOUTH WEST TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS CHALLENGED TO SUPPORT GOVERNMENT’S DRIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT

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Cameroon International Tourism Fair 2022

The representative of the Minister of Tourism and Leisure, The Secretary General at the South West Governor’s Office, Acha Gilbert Nkwenti has challenged tourism stakeholders to collaborate with the government to develop the tourism industry.

He made this clarion call on Thursday November 3, 2022 during the official opening ceremony of the Second Edition of Cameroon International Tourism Fair taking place at the Limbe Botanic Garden in the seaside resort town of Limbe.

The three-day event which will run till Saturday November 5, 2022 is tagged, « Ecotourism and Sociocultural Development: Harnessing and Valorizing Potentials for Sustainable Future. »

“I am leaving here very satisfied with the exhibition that South West has offered through the window of Cameroon International Tourism Trade Fair. We all know where we have come from, so it’s indeed a source of joy for us to see the entire population of South West Region exhibiting to the whole world.” Acha Gilbert said.

He added that Cameroon is not only Africa in miniature, but the South West Region is Cameroon in miniature.

Nkwenti opined that the event is a platform geared to assist stakeholders, enable them promote and enhance the Cameroonian culture, mind, feeling, aspirations and natural endowment such that Cameroon should be seen from all angles.

Welcoming the representative of the Minister of Tourism and Leisure, the Limbe City Mayor, Paul Efome L.M Ngale applauded the organizers for the lovable initiative, and the population of Limbe Municipality for their friendship nature.

He encouraged the population to support their own, while using the opportunity to call on tourism sector private actors to emulate the example of Flora Travel and Tours to partner with Limbe City Council to drive the development of the Limbe Municipality forward especially in the structural touristic transformation.

In his keynote address, HRM Nfon Mukete IV Ekoko, Nfon of the Kumba and Paramount Chief of the Bafaw people, said the event showcased what Cameroon has to offer in the sector to generate revenue and create employment.

He affirmed government’s activeness to ensure the development of tourism sector and encouraged actors to valorize Cameroon’s potentials.

“The Tourism industry is a major employer in African continent supporting millIons of job directly and indirectly, despite the few challenges affecting the growth and expansion of the sector”, HRM Nfon Mukete said.

He added that the Tourism Fair will encourage more tourists in Cameroon and more investors for the socio-economic growth of the country.

On her part, the vision bearer and CEO of Flora Travel and Tours Agatha Iyok said; « It’s interesting to note that some of our unemployment issues can find solutions in the tourism industry if we understand the value tourism has to offer and harness the strength of its various sectors.”

She opined that many will be inspired this weekend to explore Cameroon’s rich tourism sites and will invite others. Mrs. Iyok revealed that the event will be an annual event together with her partners.

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President Buhari Calls For Co-Operation Among African Nations

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President Muhammadu Buhari has called for more neighborliness and mutual understanding between African states in order to enhance trade, security and promote development of the continent.

The President, represented by the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, at the inauguration ceremony of the Nigeria/Cameroon Joint Border Post and Bridge at Mfum Cross River State, said the 1.5km project would enhance the interconnectivity of “our people and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security.’’

“It is with great sense of satisfaction that we are witnessing the official Joint inauguration of the Mfum/Ekok 1.5km Bridge and Joint Border Post (JBP).

“Let me begin with commending the Leaderships of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon that worked closely to realize this project, as well as the African Development Bank (ADB) that provided funding for the execution and completion of this 1.5km Joint Border Project,’’ he said.

President Buhari noted that the project would deepen the inextricably linked cultural and traditional fraternal bonds that already exist between Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the border communities.

“Let me also underscore that in order to maximise the benefits of these projects, the Nigerian and Cameroonian officials that would be saddled with the responsibility of manning the Joint Border Post, in particular, must act in the most professional manner, as well as in line with the global best practices, effective from today,’’ he stated.

President Buhari affirmed that the completion of the project had made both Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the area jubilant.

“Such excitement symbolises the resolve of our People and Governments to remain connected in spite of our seemingly artificial boundaries.

“The completion and commissioning of this project could not have come at a more auspicious time than when Nigeria has signed and ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.

Therefore, we expect that the commissioning of this Joint Border Bridge and Post will not only strengthen the existing cordial relations between Nigeria and Cameroon, but also enhance cooperation between the ECOWAS and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

“Under the AfCFTA, this project has the potential to enhancing the volume of economic activities in our regions, and facilitate the free movement of persons, goods and services within the countries, along the corridor.

It would also serve as a vital link between the West and the Central African regions.

”The Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also expects that this Joint Border Post and Bridge will enhance security patrol and facilitate effective cooperation in this part of our border with the Republic of Cameroon. While expressing our confidence that this project would accomplish the set targets, it is also our hope that it would complement the current efforts of the Governments of Nigeria and Cameroon to combat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism in our region.

“This is important because the activities of violent extremists have continued to present major challenges to the development of our countries and regions,’’ he said.

The President said the menace of insecurity had continued to threaten economies, impede the maximisation of the strategic potentials of our countries and cause political upheavals and menace in the sub-regions.

“Hence, it is our hope that the commissioning of this project will accelerate the efforts of our gallant security personnel who are already doing very well in securing our territories.

“We also pray that this project would enhance the interconnectivity of our people and communities, improve living standards, reduce barriers to inter-regional trade and strengthen border security. We are certain that these projects will deepen the inextricably linked cultural and traditional fraternal bonds that already exist between Nigerians and Cameroonians living around the border communities,’’ the President stated.

He noted that the project, which was part of the on-going Nigeria/Cameroon Multinational Highway and Transport Facilitation Programme (NCMH&TFP), would remain a visible testament to the continuing cooperation and good neighbourliness between both countries, and Regional Economic Communities.

“This bridge, and Joint Border Post, are proofs that when African countries work with African Institutions, outstanding and people-centred cross-regional developmental projects can be achieved in record time,’’ he said.

The President thanked all the Institutions and Agencies that made the project possible.

“I recall in this regard, that the Government of the Republic of Cameroon cooperated with us in granting joint waiver to the Expatriates that were employed by the construction company that handled the project, despite the global COVID-19 lockdown. The cooperation and support of H.E. President Paul Biya, as well as the Government and people of Cameroon, ensured that this project was completed on schedule.

“Let me also extend the gratitude of the Government and people of Nigeria to the African Development Bank for the role it played in financing these projects. Under the leadership of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Bank has become, by all standards, a reliable beacon of support in all matters relating to Africa’s development. Indeed, we are very proud of the performance of the current Management of our continental Bank which has confirmed that we truly have African solutions to African problems ».

“Let me also commend the leadership and staff of the ECOWAS and ECCAS for their untiring efforts in ensuring the timely completion of this project. It is necessary to underscore that visible projects such as these, as well as other critical and life changing infrastructure are the type of projects that the citizens of our sub-region have been yearning to see. It is the hope that under the leadership of Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, ECOWAS will continue to deliver on the expectations of our citizens.

“Finally, let me conclude by extending our deepest appreciation to the contractors, CGCOC, that have shown uncommon commitment to the execution and delivery of this high quality project, within a reasonable period. To all of you who have contributed in one way or the other to this epoch–making and memorable occasion, I convey my warm appreciation,’’ President Buhari said.

The Minster of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said the value of the new bridge transcended connection between Nigeria and Cameroon, boosting the larger effort of connecting Africa.

He said efforts would be sustained to improve networking among Africans, which ECOWAS and the African Union had been pursuing over many years, with earlier plans dating back to 1969.

Improve Relations

Fashola said consistency in building roads and bridges would improve relations among Africa countries, where people can drive from Lagos to Mombasa.

The Cameroonian Minister of Public Works, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, who represented President Paul Biya, appreciated the contributions of various stakeholders to the project, assuring that the Nigeria/Cameroon relations will explore more possibilities for partnership.

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DARK DAY FOR DAVIDO AS SON DROWNS IN SWIMMING POOL.

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Music star, Davido and his partner, Chioma have lost their three-year-old son, Ifeanyi.
According to reports, Ifeanyi drowned in a swimming pool at his residence in Banana Island, Lagos State.

Ifeanyi who was born in 2019 was said to have been underwater for a very long time before being spotted and rushed to a hospital in the Lekki area of the state, he was, however, confirmed dead on arrival.
May his soul rest in peace and pray the Almighty God give his parents the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss.

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