Coming off the shadow of an anti-colonial struggle against the Italian occupation, the state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) had a humble but conflated beginning. It was a commercial bank, doubling as a regulatory institution, first named the State Bank of Ethiopia. It had launched its operations with one million Maria Theresa thaler in paid-up capital, two branches and only 43 staff.

Seventy-five years on, the board of directors, senior managers and the staff of the CBE, as well as guests, have commemorated the day on Saturday morning, kicking off a walk on Churchill Road, from Charles de Gaulle Square, where CBE’s journey began. It is the first of a series of events planned for up until April 2018, designed to mark the period when the State Bank of Ethiopia had been issued permits and started a business.

There will be a book launching of CBE’s history and a symposium on Ethiopia’s financial sector, where the state-owned bank mobilises 399 billion Br in deposits, an amount almost double the deposits by the 16 private banks, in 2016/17. Today, CBE serves well over 16 million depositors – of which 3.7 million hold its electronic payment cards – served by 1,240 branches scattered across the country and 50,423 employees. The Bank now enjoys a paid-up capital of 43 billion Br, more than double the capitalisation of all private banks, while commands a total asset of over half a trillion Birr. To date, the CBE has advanced loans reaching 437 billion Br, including the 202 billion Br provided to finance the mega projects under the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP), a state-owned utility monopoly. “However, the past 75 years were not without sacrifices,” said Bekalu Zeleke, the ninth president of the CBE, speaking before hundreds of his staff members, senior government officials, and clients.

Speaking inside a newly completed branch in the Lideta area, Bekalu was referring to the couple of moments when CBE was compelled to align its business mission to the policy priorities of the different regimes through the years. The trying times, in particular, were during the military Marxist government, which had forced the Bank to finance state-owned firms, not for their profitability, but because they were considered policy priorities.

Built on Chad Street, across the Federal High Court, the 18-storey Zagwe Building is erected on a 27,000sqm plot; its construction, contracted out to Teklebrehan Ambaye Construction (TACON), consumed 480 million Br, and incorporates a modern gym which cost the Bank tens of millions of Birr. The building hosts a branch named after the late Gezehegn Yilma, former president, where CBE honoured staff members who have contributed to its growth, former presidents, and chairpersons of the board of directors. Of those honoured yesterday were Assefa Abraha, the first chairman of the board when CBE was restructured in 1992, and Leikun Brehanu, Tilahun Abay and Abie Sanu, all served the Bank as presidents. Alemu Abera, president in the late 1980s, flew from overseas to mark the moment and received a silver-plated memorabilia.

Published on Dec 05,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 919]



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