I was browsing the web this morning and fell on this news article on All Africa, Cameroon: A Bank Account to Make Your Dreams Come True. I suddenly thought of the prosperity pastors and their never ending schemes to line their pockets with wads of cash harvested from poor followers in the name of seed sowing. I smiled then clicked the article which was posted on December 11, 2011.
It was talking about the introduction of the ‘Guaranteed minimum banking service’ that was introduced by the Ministry of Finance to make banking more accessible to Cameroonians. The article said “The measure is a golden opportunity for many young Cameroonians, who see it as a way to improve their living conditions.”
It sounds funny right? Frankly speaking, Cameroon and its administration are not very different from these illusion pastors. How can opening a bank account make your dream come true or improve your living condition? It means opening a bank account is a great achievement until it has become the dream of average Cameroonians who could not even afford a meal a day.
The article also goes to tell us “opening a bank account is often a long and tedious process, with many obstacles.” I now see why the ‘dream come true’. Let’s forget about the prosperity pastor-like image and come back to reality. Opening a bank account in Cameroon at that time may have been difficult because of the process and not the documentation that hasn’t changed. What made it a nightmare was the slow process due to the fact that most things were done manually.
The documents that were asked when I opened my first bank account with a commercial bank in 2008 are still the same. It was not really slow and tedious with Ecobank. However, what I can remember is that SGBC (now SGC) had something like a vetting process for their would-be clients. I don’t actually know why but I still hear they still do it, though not quite sure. They should have very good reasons for doing that.
Most banking activities were done manually in those days. The digitization of banking services today have helped a lot in improving the speed with which banking activities are carried out. It has also helped to improve the bancarization rate in the country as citizens can carry out banking operations remotely with safety. This saves a lot of time and cost that used to be lost in the days where you were obliged to follow a queue.
Eight years ago, the bancarization rate in Cameroon could barely exceed 10%. It increased to 20% with the coming of new commercial banks. This must have increased more with the advent of mobile money services by the two telecommunication giants, MTN Cameroon and Orange Cameroun. The mobile penetration rate which stood at 80% last year can help a lot in boosting access to banking services.
Banks and telecommunication companies have been teaming up to allow banking transactions to be done between the customers mobile money accounts and their bank accounts. One of the first in this activity was Ecobank and Orange Cameroon. Today, many banks have signed agreements with telecom companies to allow such transactions that ease banking services.
In effect, many have ‘had their dreams come true’ as they are holders of a bank account. Mobile money accounts are considered to be bank accounts. The tax office in particular accepts transfers from mobile money accounts when carrying out business transactions as a ‘bank transfer’.
For instance, the law states that for businesses in the simplified and actual earnings tax regimes, any transaction invoice that is more than 100,000frs should be done by a bank transfer. In this regard, a mobile money transfer is seen as a bank transfer since it can be traced using the transaction number. Hence, if you did not know, holders of mobile money accounts are considered owners of a bank account which means their ‘dreams have come true’.
There are many difficulties that could limit the opening of bank accounts other than the ‘long and tedious process with many obstacles’. Many people don’t even know what is needed (as in documentation), types of bank accounts, why they need a bank account in the first place. I will be sharing with you in my subsequent posts some of these difficulties and their solutions.
You can share with us below on some of the illusionary things you have heard pastors, politicians or administrators tell their flock or citizens so ‘ your dreams come true. I will start, so check the comment section and share yours. Don’t forget to check out my last post Heineken advert adds a new season in Cameroon! Make sure you read it. It is interesting and has a lot for you to learn.