Collaboration between banks in Portuguese-speaking countries
by Dr Luis Ritto
In December 1990, a group of savings and development banks from
the world's Portuguese-speaking countries and territories (including Angola,
Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, STomamp; Principe and Portugal)
founded the 'Grupo de Coopera de Lingua Portuguesa' (GCLP). The objective of
the association is to encourage collaboration among the institutions concerned,
with a focus, among other things, on helping the African banks to reform their
financial systems in accordance with modem international standards of operation,
and to adapt to prevailing market conditions.
This initiative has resulted in a number of specific actions in
favour of African savings banks, carried out under the aegis of Portugal's
largest savings and credit institution, the Caixa Geral de Depositos. Thus, for
example, 40 head-office and branch managers of the Banco Popular de
Desenvolvimento de Mobique are undergoing a training programme which began in
1991 and is due to be completed at the end of this year. The final stage will be
a course in Lisbon for the 'top ten' managers identified on the programme. The
Caixa Economica de Cabo Verde has also received technical and training
assistance including considerable legal support and help in diversifying the
range of financial products available, while the Caixa Popular de Sao Tomamp;
Principe has benefited from a training programme as well as technical assistance
in modernising its statutes and services.
In addition to these main programmes, a number of other projects
have been developed by Portuguese savings banks in Angola and Guinea-Bissau.
These cover such diverse fields as institutional reform, legal and training
assistance and the design of financial instruments for the private sector
(especially geared to small and medium-sized enterprises).
At a general meeting of all GCLP institutions held in Lisbon in
May, the African banks praised the 'tailor-made' assistance they had received
from their Portuguese counterparts. They also stressed a desire for the example
to be followed by other EU Member Stat=. There is a distinct shortage of banks
operating efficiently in sub-Saharan Africa, especially when it comes to
attracting the savings of ordinary people for on-lending to investment (as
opposed to commercial) schemes. The support of the Portuguese institutions was
recognised as a step in the right direction which could help African banks to
become more efficient and better oriented towards the development needs of their
local communities and countries.
The Lisbon meeting was attended by the author of this article
(from the European Commission) and by a representative of the World Bank. The
idea behind this was for participants to learn about the projects that these two
organisations are developing in Africa and to examine the possibilities offered
by the Commission and the Bank in helping financial institutions in
Portuguese-speaking Africa to obtain technical assistance and credit lines for
In fact, the African members of the GCLP have already recognised
the importance of private-sector promotion for the sustainable development of
their countries and they are keen to take the lead in providing support for the
productive sectors of their economies. To do this, however, they need technical
and financial assistance from the EU and the World Bank. A point of particular
concern that arose during the discussions was the view that the EC's 'PALOP'
Regional Programme' does not fully take account of their needs. In addition, at
this stage the indicative programmes of most countries under LomV's first
financial protocol are almost fully utilised, obliging them, until new
indicative programmes are approved, to look for alternative sources of funding.
On the latter subject, the GCLP members decided to continue
their discussions with the European Commission and other international donors.
For this purpose, new meetings of the GCLP group with the European Commission
were set up for Cape Verde in September 1994 and Angola in January 1995. The
hope is that, in the meantime, the different governments of Portuguese-speaking
Africa will have been sensitised to the needs of their banking and private
sectors and that this will be reflected in the forthcoming PALOP regional and
country programmes, to be negotiated with the European Commission during 1995.