Ivorians rush to withdraw cash from seized banks


Hundreds of Ivorians rushed to the nationalised unit of BNP Paribas in Abidjan to withdraw their money for the first time since international banks suspended operations in the country.

Ivory Coast’s incumbent Laurent Gbagbo seized local units of international banks including France’s Societe Generale and Standard Chartered after the banks shut operations over security concerns last month.

The world’s top cocoa producer has been plunged into a violent crisis since a disputed November 28 poll, pushing the West African nation to the brink another civil war, Reuters reports.

The country’s banking system ground to a halt in mid-February. Banks, citing liquidity and security problems, shut their doors on queues of Ivorians desperate to withdraw cash. Hundreds of savers queued in front of the Abidjan headquarters of BNP’s BICIC, the only branch open countrywide as early as 6am on Thursday to withdraw money, a Reuters witness said.

The bank set a withdrawal limit for individuals at 200,000 CFA Francs per day and 1 million for companies, a bank staff member said, adding that clients were mostly carrying out withdrawals.
“I could have withdrawn 2 million, but unfortunately you have to come to terms with realities,” said retired Adjoumani Kobenan, a client of the bank since 1978.
“What can we do with 200,000 CFA Franc? … I am forced to come back tomorrow because I don’t have the minimum of what I need,” he said.

Societe Generale has condemned the seizure of its subsidiary in Ivory Coast, SGBCI, and the coercion of its staff. It has said that neither SGBCI nor Societe Generale Group can be considered legally bound by any acts committed its name.

Meanwhile some Ivorians said they have started receiving their salaries after Gbagbo nationalised the banks so as to be able to pay them.
“I have just received my salary, it was very difficult. It is very disorganised. I have been here since yesterday, it is only this morning that I got my money,” said Kra Kouame, a civil servant at the forestry ministry.