By NBF News

Buba Marwa
Nigerian commercial banks have so far failed to take effective advantage of retail banking licences extended to them by South African authorities, the Nigerian High Commissioner to South Africa, Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa (retd), has said.

Marwa said that the South African authorities had approved retail banking licences for Nigerian banks, but instead of operating the licences, the banks had only been able to establish country offices in South Africa.

The country offices were not able to compete with large South African banks, the high commissioner noted.

The inability of Nigerian banks to engage in full operations in South Africa is one of several factors responsible for an identified imbalance in trade relations between both countries.

Currently, this imbalance favours the South Africans, whose companies have found it easier to operate and flourish in the Nigerian economy.

Nigerian companies, on the other hand, have not had similar success in South Africa.

Marwa spoke of the inability of Nigerian banks to fully operate their retail banking licences in South Africa while commenting on the trade imbalance between the country and Nigeria.

The reported trade imbalance was the reason for complaints by the Federal Government during a meeting of the Nigeria-South Africa Bi-National Commission in Abuja in 2009.

At that meeting, the Federal Government had complained about the situation, and urged its South African counterpart to introduce relevant policies to address the problem.

Reacting to the development, Marwa said the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa was engaging the South African authorities on the matter.

'We are working on that and we have put it before the South African authorities,' he said.

However, he also noted that disparity in the capacity of business establishments in the two countries also meant that South African companies might enjoy comparative advantage in some sectors.

He said, 'But we have to be cautious also when we make a sweeping statement. It is not necessarily in the same categories that their companies excel in Nigeria that we will do the same.

'For instance, in banking, you know Standard Bank is with Stanbic-IBTC in Nigeria, but our own banks are reluctant. They have been given the approval now to operate fully in South Africa's retail banking, but they have not.'