Barclays has won an industry accolade for its credit card services in Africa at the first Middle East and Africa awards held by The Asian Banker in Dubai, an event awkwardly juxtaposed against months of wrangling by the financial provider to withdraw its services from Somalia.
The winning qualities of Barclays this year included its acquisition of 28,000 customers within the first year of the Platinum Barclaycard and a 31% gain in market share by the Barclays Word miles Platinum cards, all against a backdrop of an 18% market share in credit card spends.
“This recognition demonstrates our longterm approach to creating a customer centric value proposition that is core to Barclays becoming the ‘Go-To’ bank in Africa,” noted Rajal Vaidya, director for retail banking at Barclays Africa.
However, this year has also been notably coloured by Barclays’ attempts to pull out of Somalia and sever a vital money transfer ‘lifeline’ for many in the country, who rely on overseas remittances from economic migrants living abroad to care for dependent relatives.
On the Somali side, money transfer operator (MTO) Dahabshiil won an injunction in November forcing Barclays to maintain its operations in the country after demonstrating the necessity of the services of the bank, and its role as Somalia’s only present link to the UK financial system.
To put this all into perspective, overseas Somalis send $1.2bn in remittances annually, representing around half of Somalia’s national income, and a vital source of funds for up to 40% of its citizens.
In a poignant example, the UK’s Independent highlighted the case of Shamis Abokor, once Somalia’s hottest pop singer, but more recently the victim of a debilitating stroke who today, aged 78, is cared for thanks to her daughter in the UK, who sends money back each month using Dahabshiil.
And despite the fact Barclays has acknowledged Dahabshiil to be fully compliant with industry regulations, it seems likely that the bank is trepidus of US regulators and threat of fines like those handed down last year to HSBC and Standard Chartered, costing $1.9bn and $330m, respectively.
Nonetheless, the lack of warning with which Barclays initially announced its withdrawal caught the Somali government and NGOs operating in the country off-guard and has done much to blight an otherwise positive record for the bank on the continent.
Meanwhile, as a court appointment date still pends, Barclays will continue to blow its trumpet over its recent award, with lending director, Vimal Kumar, adding: “It is a huge recognition of the great work we have done on the continent over the past two to three years.”