Corona relief from Agribank

The countrywide engagement started in Windhoek on 31 June under the theme “Let's Talk”, and is aimed at clarifying issues around the package.

15 July 2020 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Agribank recently kicked off its countrywide stakeholder information workshops on its coronavirus relief stimulus package.

The bank introduced the stimulus package on 1 June to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on clients, while stimulating optimum production at farm level. The countrywide engagement started in Windhoek on 31 June under the theme “Let's Talk”, and is aimed at clarifying issues around the package. Agribank board chairman Michael Iyambo said the bank puts a premium on stakeholder engagement and consultations to foster mutual understanding about its operations and activities.



Challenges

According to Iyambo, the bank has a deep understanding of the challenges facing the agricultural sector, from prolonged drought, dwindling market prices, a reduction in its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) and, of late, the impact of the coronavirus.

He explained that the stimulus package is an outcome of extensive consultations with key stakeholders, from farmers' unions to internal staff members.

“Naturally, as is the case with consultations, not all the proposals put forward by the diverse group of stakeholders emerge in the same format in which they were made,” Iyambo said.

He, however, emphasised that the package covers all relevant aspects that have emerged from these consultations, and the bank endeavoured to come up with a package that is feasible under the current economic conditions, while responding to these issues.

“Customers would always want more flexibility and relaxation of requirements, but as a bank we can only do what is feasible and sustainable. Clients must also be prepared to meet the bank halfway, instead of always demanding a free pass.”



Minimal conditions

Agribank CEO Sakaria Nghikembua said government provided a guarantee for the bank to borrow money for disbursement to qualifying clients in the form of stimulus loans.

Nghikembua noted that the guarantee is not a physical transfer of funds from treasury, but rather the bank is required to raise funds at affordable interest rates.

“This is naturally a challenge when you have clients whose payment records are not optimal,” Nghikembua said. According to him, it was important for the bank and shareholders to set minimal conditions to ensure financial sustainability.



Honouring commitments

It is also important that the bank is able to carry out its mandate by honouring its commitments to clients whose loans have already been approved prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

It is also critical that the bank assists new and repeat clients who need assistance throughout this period, including women and youth who face a high rate of unemployment in the country, he said. Nghikembua further appealed to clients to embrace the stimulus package and take advantage of the various relief measures it offers.

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