Namibia to allow foreign banks to open branches


Namibia will allow foreign banks to open branches and also make it easier for the government to increase local ownership of domestic banks, the southern African nation’s central bank said.

The Bank of Namibia said in a statement on Friday a new amendment would allow “credible foreign banking institutions” to open branches to promote competition in a banking industry dominated by a handful of lenders.

Previously, overseas banks were only allowed to open fully incorporated subsidiaries or representative offices, it said.

The amendment will make it easier for the government to draft regulations on the ownership of banks to increase local control of lenders, it said.

The central bank said it will also now be able to levy administrative fines on lenders.

Namibia in July blocked a bid by South Africa’s Absa to gain control of a local lender, citing concern about foreign dominance of its financial industry.

Only Bank Windhoek, of which Absa had a bid to take a controlling stake, is majority owned by locals.

South Africa’s Standard Bank, FirstRand and Nedbank, all have majority stakes in Namibian lenders.