An economist and connoisseur of the Mauritanian banking sector, Dieng Adama was co-opted by the Canadian group Westbridge Mortgage REIT, newly installed in Mauritania, after the acquisition of the New Bank of Mauritania (NBM). A new adventure for this expert with more than 30 years of career within the Central Bank of Mauritania. Dieng Adama’s major challenge is to rebuild the NBM around the priorities of the Canadian real estate finance specialist with a strong emphasis on recovery and financial inclusion. Interview.
The acquisition of the NBM by the Westbridge Mortgage REIT group is welcomed by most players in the Mauritanian private sector as a challenge especially after so many years of crisis and poor governance within this bank. How do you plan to meet the challenges and set the record straight?
Indeed, for all those who know the current situation of the bank and God knows that there are many, (between depositors, individuals, public enterprises, projects, public institutions, correspondents, various creditors and banks resetting the clock is a real challenge. But I like to take up challenges: to do so, our priorities are first to reassure our customers
by paying off private depositors and suppliers as quickly as possible and by settling litigation files. We must then find agreements with public institutions and correspondents to spread out the reimbursement of our bank’s commitments within a suitable period. Emphasis will be placed on the recovery and consolidation of the bank with the closure of unprofitable branches, the redeployment of staff and the reduction of charges …
The WMR group is known for its experience in real estate finance. What could be the level of contribution of your bank in the financing of the private or public real estate programs of the country?
Banks under Mauritanian law, whether conventional or Islamic, with Mauritanian or foreign private capital, are all retail banks favoring very short-term loans; this orientation is explained among other things by the scarcity of long resources. The arrival of the WMR group with proven experience in the financing of real estate is a chance for Mauritanians and our ambition is to make mortgage loans accessible to citizens as well local as those of the diaspora. We intend to support the authorities in the implementation of their ambitious program for the construction and rehabilitation of religious, cultural and sports infrastructure.
The establishment of WMR in Mauritania could boost mixed investments between Canadian promoters and these Mauritanians. What plans does your structure have to support this momentum?
Westbridge Mortgage joins a growing list of Canadian firms in Mauritania, including Kinross gold and AL GOLD Resources; the group will not only help companies already established to increase or strengthen their investments in the country but also WMR will attract other North American investors in Mauritania.
Mauritania is known for a low rate of banking. What could your bank’s solution be to reduce this rate to a much more respectable level?
Indeed, the rate of banking in Mauritania is one of the lowest in the sub-region, around 14% against 22% in Morocco, 18.5% in Senegal and 16.6% in Ivory Coast ; however, it has been established that the rate of banking is a lever for economic and social development. Independently of the NBM takeover, the WMR group has submitted an application for authorization to a participating bank. Obtaining this approval will make this institution a platform for financing and technical assistance from other local microfinance institutions; the group will set up a financing line of nearly $ 15 million over 3 years for a few microfinance institutions. The group plans to organize crowdfunding days by the end of 2020 where major international institutions will take part to share their experiences in financing microfinance. These investments are likely to raise the rate of banking.
What will be the prospects for your structure during the next 5 years?
The Mauritanian market is largely buoyant and potential, the product is salable and we will make it accessible to customers. By March 2021, the bank will meet all standards required by the Central Bank, Basel III and Canadian regulations; at the end of the next 5, we will be a benchmark bank in the sub-region and, why not, the first bank in the sub-region.