By James Gatdet Dak and Isaac Vuni
April 27, 2009 (JUBA) – Ivory Bank, a pioneer banking institution in Sudan, has moved its headquarters from Khartoum to its branch in Juba, an event marked by a pledge of US$11 million in financing from the Government of Southern Sudan.
Gabriel Changson Chang, chairman of the Board of Directors of the bank, said he was satisfied with the operations of Ivory Bank, which he said is moving beyond its debts into profit-making, and he appealed to the regional government --- for which he is minister of information — to fully fulfil its pledge to pay US$11 million to the bank beyond the six million already paid.
The bank, opened by southern economists in September 1994 in Khartoum to serve the interests of southern Sudanese, plans to open several additional branches across Southern Sudan, according to Chang’s remarks.
Unlike the Islamic system in northern Sudan, Ivory Bank is part of the conventional banking system. It also operates a branch in Malakal, along with the near-collapsing Nile Commercial Bank, which was established about six years ago in 2003 in areas held by the SPLM/A insurgency.
Ivory Bank’s new headquarters was inaugurated in the regional capital, Juba, on Monday by the Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Dr. Riek Machar Teny.
In his inaugural remarks, the vice president said the current situation in Southern Sudan posed a challenge to the bank to deliver services to the people in the region. Although Ivory Bank has attracted many clients, its services are rudimentary due to lack of trained staff further constrained by lack of new technology.
But Machar pledged millions to assist the bank to take off with its new policy, directing the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning to immediately transfer the balance of eleven million dollars to Ivory Bank.
With the opening of the latest electronic money transfer technology by Ivory bank, people of the south should be able to reduce alleged financial missteps while moving salaries and development funds to various units or states in south Sudan.
Another boon from the bank would be reducing dependency on imported food by facilitating movement of fruits, eggs, vegetable and pineapples from Western Equatoria state, posited Machar. “For how long must we depend on imported food?” he asked.
Elijah Malok Aleng, Governor of the Bank of Southern Sudan, appreciated the repatriation of the bank headquarters to Southern Sudan, stressing that the region needed the Southern Sudan-based commercial banks to improve their services.
He further hailed Ivory Bank for its move toward profit-making after noticing that between 2007 and 2008 there were a lot of unsettled debts. He advised that at least eighty percent of borrowed amount be returned before effecting any deals with future clients.
He also announced that the manager and his deputy are being rewarded with two months’ gross pay while other staffs get one month gross pay as appreciation for their demanding service.
Earlier, General Manger Ernest Woderif Marbaga described the inauguration as “a milestone in history of banking in South Sudan.”
However, Marbaga observed that a sudden exodus of Islamic banks from the south has negatively impacted innocent people because of overstretched meagre resources and manpower.
Nevertheless, he emphasized that southerners have taken over dilapidated structures and made provisions to hire new personnel to fill the vacuum left by departing bank officials, particularly in Aweil, Bentiu, and Malakal
The general manager commented that banking is a highly professional occupation that cannot be mastered overnight, hence it requires many years of intensive training for personnel.