Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
STEWARD Bank has set aside over $300 million to support entrepreneurs in selected sectors during the current financial year as the institution embraces economic empowerment through financial inclusion for sustainable development.
In a statement accompanying audited financial statement for the year ended 28 February 2019, acting chief executive officer, Mr Krison Chirairo, said his bank has allocated funds for rural finance, healthcare, energy and housing, which entrepreneurs can leverage on to promote sustainable development in the country. “Funds have been allocated for rural finance, healthcare, energy and housing. The drive for financial inclusion and sustainable development is a key part of the bank’s strategy going forward. Over $300 million is to be invested in these sectors in the coming financial year,” he said.
“The $100 million rural finance fund aims to empower entrepreneurs who add value to production processes, diversify opportunities and innovate.”
Mr Chirairo said financing rural projects has evidently yielded dividends adding that investment in entrepreneurial people would be supported by development of sustainable infrastructure that results in improved living standards. This holistic approach to banking, he said, is the shareholder’s vision and is unique to Steward Bank.
In 2018, the financial institution also launched a digitised crowd funding platform called ‘Kanzatu-nzatu’, which allows Zimbabweans to raise funds through setting up an account and sharing a link to contacts to deposit funds. The platform has also supported the country’s social responsibility initiatives such as the national cholera campaign. Zimbabweans have also in the past joined hands to raise funds for friends and family for weddings, medical procedures, university fees and church events through Kanzatu-nzatu.
During the period under review, Steward Bank also launched a nano loan platform that leverages on big data and machine learning to assign credit scores and determine eligibility. The nano loan platform has since inception disbursed over $6 million with an average value of $30. During the year under review, Steward Bank’s profit before tax grew by 10 percent to $36,2 million from $32,8 million reported in the comparative period last year.
Aggressive customer acquisition strategy led to an increase in non-interest income. The bank’s total assets during the period under review also grew by 103 percent to $935 million up from $471 million reported in February 2018. This was largely driven by an increase in demand deposits, which grew by 118 percent to close at $747 million from $342 million disclosed in the comparative period in 2018. — @okazunga.