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Barclays Bank not being straightforward with its workers and clients about closing shop in Africa



A recent news story with considerable implications for thousands of Ghanaians piqued my interest. So far, it has gained little press coverage and detailed analysis, and our government, from all indications, has been strangely silent on the subject. But it is an issue that should have all of us asking a whole lot of questions.

When a financial institution that has had a presence in a place for well over a century takes a major decision, it sends shock waves down the spines of its customers and clients. That is exactly what Barclays Bank did. In business speak, Barclays said it was going to get rid of its 62 percent stake in its Africa business.

The decision, not unexpected  triggered anger and anguish. Barclays has over the years, one hundred and twenty five to be precise,  come to symbolize fiscal efficiency, trust and professionalism. Many were those who trusted the bank to stash away their savings for a rainy day.

What is so disquieting about Barclays decision to pull out of Africa is the timing; the decision was taken at a very crucial juncture when African economies are struggling mightily as a direct result of low commodity prices, China’s slow economic growth and the depreciation of many African currencies. Barclays decision is akin to rats abandoning a sinking ship. Africa has been left to its fate.

To Barclays, the opportunities for more growth in Africa simply aren’t there, local African economies are not ripe enough for retail banking. But it is hogwash, indeed absurd to blame Africa solely for Barclays poor performance in the last ten years. Barclays bears as much responsibility for its fate.

The Bank should have taken opportunities for growth that came its way, but it dillydallied thus allowing banks such as Standard Bank and Ecobank to swoop in and snap up those opportunities.

In fact, Barclays was preoccupied with merging with South Africa’s ABSA bank, a process that started in 2005 and is yet to be completed. Expanding its financial footprints was the least of its worries.

And now that its inertia and gross inaction has come back to bite Barclays in the backside, the blame is being put on poor performing African economies? Give me a break. Fortunately, there was no run on the bank—depositors did not rush to withdraw their monies—-as that would surely have precipitously caused the bank to implode and hastened its departure from Africa.

Barclays decision was purely a financial one; Of course, business entities are oftentimes compelled to take measures to protect their shareholders and investors and their vast interests, but ultimately, it is the consuming public that suffers with fewer banks and high bank charges.

Barclays claims it is not abandoning Africa, but if you listen to its new CEO, the claim falls flat on its face. The chief executive has lamented the fact that Africa, Russia and Brazil are no longer attractive to investors and Barclays plans to scale back from these areas. So, go figure.

Well, despite the Bank’s recent PSA, public service announcement, that all was well and that it would continue to serve the public with cutting edge innovations,  that claim should be viewed with lots of skepticism. It was a calculated pr move to salvage its once pristine image, the reassurances notwithstanding.

Ultimately, Barclays will pack its bag and say goodbye to its 45000 African employees, a prospect that will certainly double or triple unemployment rates around the continent. When that happens it will be a sad legacy for a once giant and respectable financial institution.





1 Comment
  1. Ayiku Alex says

    Hmmm. The unemployment rate in our continent continue to be a bane in Africa, our leaders have failed us in creating jobs and I think our brothers and sisters who have made it in the white man’s land should come home and teach our enterprising youth as to how to create jobs and stop being in somebody’s land and dictating to us that the youth are unemployed. How many of our brothers and sisters are home(Africa) to create jobs the white man’s way. Is a disgrace. Barclays can roll up in Africa but we still mentain our dignity as Africans.

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