“We are quite grateful for the confidence that (the Indian) government and business continues to show in the South African economy and of the South African banking system in particular. The South African banking system is a world-class system which is highly stable and very efficient,” Mashiya said.
Bank of India has opened its first South African branch here, more than half a century after it established its first presence in the African continent.
“Africa has, for long, been our favoured continent and upgrading our representative office of the past five years to branch banking in South Africa is one more step in that direction,” said Alok Misra, Chairman and Managing Director of the 106-year-old bank.
Bank of India already has a presence in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa and besides an office in Botswana in two months’ time, there were plans to open offices in a few more African countries in West and East Africa in the near future, Misra said.
Misra was undeterred by comments that Bank of India was starting up quite late in South Africa, where State Bank of India and Bank of Baroda are among financial institutions from India which have firmly entrenched themselves for several years already.
“South Africa is the major powerhouse for sub-Saharan Africa, and we are committed to Africa as a continent. We see a lot of good things happening in Africa, where there are good resources and labour available.
“I think Africa is poised for growth which will also translate into increased trade with India, which is also a fast-growing economy,” Misra said.
The CMD said there was also optimism about the BRICS alliance (Brazil-India-China-Russia-South Africa) becoming a dominant force in the next decade: “Our new branch in Johannesburg would act as a catalyst for economic development.’’
“With business increasing between India and South Africa, it is the right time to commence branch banking here,” Misra said, adding that the initial focus would be on existing Indian clients, especially corporates who were also in South Africa.
He also did not see the highly competitive banking sector in South Africa as a challenge.
“India also has cut-throat competition, but we have learnt to live with it and deal with it in the same way that we have with our branches across the world in other highly competitive environments, such as those of the US, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand where we are present.’’
Nkosana Mashiya, Deputy Registrar of the South African Reserve Bank, joined Misra in inaugurating the branch in the heart of Sandton, the financial hub of Johannesburg.