Standard Chartered Bank has opened a branch at Esiama in the Ellembelle District in the Western Region, following the growing investor interest in developments in the oil and gas industry.
The move by the bank, which is known for locating in urban areas and using electronic platforms to reach the unbanked, will bring relief to residents of Esiama and its surrounding communities, as it would enable them to access basic to more sophisticated banking services from the first quartile bank.
The bank’s decision to locate at Esiama was also motivated by the latest investor interest in the area, which the GRAPHIC BUSINESS highlighted last year.
Adamus Resources commenced its operation at Nkroful followed by the siting of the Ghana National Gas Company and the new Lonrho Free Port project, which is spread across the district.
Since the commencement of major development projects in the area, workers and the corporate world have complained about the unavailability of commercial banking services in the resource rich areas of the Western Region.
During the initial constructional stages of the Ghana Gas Plant at Atuabo, contractors had to pay their workers in cash in their vehicles because of the lack of commercial banking services.
Currently, the ongoing projects include the construction of a 110-km road from Apimanim to Elubo, and the contractors had to pay compensations to affected communities and construction workers in cash or those who were paid with cheques had to travel to the regional capital to access money.
That aside, members of the corporate world, teachers and personnel of the security services stationed in these areas have to struggle to access their salaries because of the absence of commercial banks in the area.
Before the emergence of the mining company, the gas project, as well as the hospitality industry, the biggest business in the two districts was cocoa farming.
As a result, some cocoa purchasing clerks had to handle bulk cash, which on many occasions resulted in attacks on them and their money being taken away.
The district hosts the birth place of the celebrated first President of the Republic of Ghana, stilt village of Nzulezu, forest reserves and other places of interest but there is no easy access to automated teller machine for cash.
Tourists to the various sites in the two districts have to carry enough money on them to ensure that they are able to pay for their expenses or have to travel to Takoradi for banking transactions.
This situation, according some of the tourists, is not the best as they try not to carry cash on them.
Currently, the Western Regional Capital has become one of the most important places for financial institutions who traditionally clamoured for space in Accra, Tema and Kumasi.
A tutor at the Esiama Senior High School, Mr Adulf Sagari Nokoe, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that it was sometime frustrating to access cash and that the coming of Stanchart was a great relief.
He said with the interconnectivity, where one ATM could be used at another bank’s ATM, the presence of commercial banking services would not be bad at all.
“The district is opening up. We have almost everything; the companies are here—Ghana Gas, Lonrho, Adamus and road contractors, among others and, therefore, we need commercial banking services and it is a giant and bold step Stanchart has taken,” he said.
A tour of parts of the district revealed that the closest commercial banking service is the Ghana Commercial Bank at Axim in the Nzema East Municipal Assembly.
The District Chief Executive for Ellembelle, Mr Daniel Kermanbetu Eshun, commended Standard Chartered Bank for the bold initiative and said he was aware of some others who were making plans to open branches in the area.
He said with the economic activities and occupational mobility in the face of current infrastructure development in the district, there was the need for improved banking services.
Mr Eshun said most of the developments taking place in the district required big banks to serve the varied and changing needs of the people, including tourists who visited or transited through the district.
“The district has more to offer and continues to catch the attention of the investors; therefore the movement of commercial banks to my district is long overdue,” he added.