The Egyptian Banking Institute (EBI) considers establishing a special unit for training in cooperation with African countries, Abdel Aziz Nosseir, executive director of the EBI, told Daily News Egypt.
The bank has completed the first part of his study to launch the new unit, the results of which were very promising, leaving another part, following which, the approval of the bank’s board of directors will be granted to establish the unit.
Nosseir was speaking during a roundtable held at the institute’s headquarters last week to reveal the role played by the institute in the service of African countries, following the approach of the state and the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE).
The meeting was also attended by Hisham Refaat, general manager of banks and finance department at the EBI; and Zeinab Abdel Razek, director general of international programmes and international cooperation at the EBI.
What is the nature of cooperation between the EBI and African countries in the field of training?
Nosseir: Cooperation with African countries in this field has two forms: the first is that the institute receives delegations from those countries that want to train their bank employees in Egypt, and the second is that the institute holds training sessions in these countries.
Until two years ago, the institute served only eight countries, and now we have 38 countries.
We are not only talking about training, but transferring expertise as well. For example, there are requests from the Central Bank of Malawi and the Central Bank of Tunisia to help them establish a similar banking institute in their countries.
This is done by hosting delegations from the two countries on a visit that extends for several days to get acquainted with the Egyptian experience in this regard, in addition to visiting the banks that the institute deals with, to see how we deal with them, how to stand on their training needs, and how to prepare the required training.
There are countries with small-scale banking institutes that would like to benefit from the experience of the EBI to develop their institutions. For example, we have requests to sign MoUs with the Central Bank of Libya and the Somali Central Bank in this regard.
Why does the EBI play this role, whether training or transferring expertise?
Nosseir: This role stems from the soft powers of Egypt that also holds the rotational presidency of the African Union. In addition, the CBE governor’s presidency of the Association of African Central Banks (AACB), [which ended in August].
Indeed, Egypt is a leading country, and we at the EBI have to support the state, at least in terms of human development in the African banking sector.
In your view, is the transfer of our banking expertise to these countries does not pose a threat to our Egyptian banks in terms of competition?
Nosseir: Competition here does not scare us, but I see the opposite.
I see it as partnership more than competition. If EBI can transfer its experience to African countries, we are talking about expanding in those markets and taking the lead.
In fact, Egypt always had a role in educating others, a role that has been entrusted to us for many years, and I think we do not have the luxury of abandoning this job.
On the other hand, when African countries realise our banking expertise and what we can offer in terms of training programmes, the EBI will be on the top of their choices, and this is a big gain.
What is the difference between banks in Egypt and other African countries?
Nosseir: I think all of us are in the growth phase, and I believe we should learn from each other.
But we at the EBI certainly have an added value that we can offer to banks in these countries.
There is a lot that the EBI can offer to African banking institutes, especially in some countries that do not have banking institutes. We were asked to transfer our expertise in this field to these countries, whether with regard to the internal structure of such institutes, how to put together a curriculum, and how to define the training needs for banks.
What kind of training services does the EBI offer to African countries?
Nosseir: We have different training services offered to African banks.
In some cases, banks contact the EBI and determine the type of training course they need for their staff, and whether they will receive the training in Egypt or at their countries.
There are also initiatives undertaken by the EBI, including the one launched about one and a half years ago under the name “African Integration”, which was carried out in coordination with the CBE and the Egyptian Agency for Partnership for Development of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which liaises and coordinates with African countries to identify candidates for the course.
The agency bears the cost of some training programmes in cooperation with the CBE, while some programmes are paid by the CBE in full.
Three training sessions were held within the initiative: the first in January 2019 and was attended by 35 trainees from 23 countries, including 24 trainees from 15 central banks and the rest from the Ministry of Finance, and other government agencies in some countries. It was titled “The Role of Central Banks Under a Fluctuating Market – the Egyptian Experience”.
The second session was held on 23 June 2019, and was attended by 21 trainees from 15 countries, the majority from commercial banks, and held under the title “Contemporary Issues in Corporate and SME Finance, Risk, and Governance.”
The third session was held from 18 to 29 August 2019, under the title of “The Era of Banking Risk Management”, and attended by 29 trainees from 19 countries, including 17 employees of central banks.
Refaat: They are not at the same level. Some African countries have very advanced banking, while others lack experience. Some countries have only the basic information on banks. The last two benefit from the training we offer.
Here, I would like to stress that banking in Egypt is a very developed sector that can be seen as a model for African countries.
As the EBI follows up on all what is new in the world, Egypt is always one of the first countries to apply the international standards and is committed to them, and this is also observed from our external visits.
How are training programmes delivered to these countries?
Refaat: The EBI has provided two models in training so far: the first is within the lecture halls only, and the second is divided into internal lectures and field visits to banks and major financial institutions in Egypt.
The field visits include visiting two or three major banks operating in Egypt, to learn how they work, and the visit is often linked to the subject of the training programme. If the course is on risk management, for example, they are introduced to how to manage risk within the banks visited.
The EBI also arranges visits to the Egyptian Exchange and the Printing House of the CBE.
As a result of these visits, the CBE received inquiries from some African countries on how to print banknotes locally instead of printing at foreign countries.
What is the training strategy of the EBI?
Abdel Razek: Almost two years ago, we were dealing with only eight African countries randomly. Then, we started working systematically, in the sense that the institute became a training arm of the CBE and must follows the policy of the state.
Consequently, the first direction of the institute was to develop an initiative for cooperation to transfer the Egyptian experience to the Nile Basin countries, then to the Horn of African, and the Community of Sahel–Saharan States.
In this regard, cooperation with the Egyptian Agency for Partnership for Development was agreed upon with this approach, in line with the policies of the state and the CBE.
Most of these countries have already been covered, reaching 2,700 trainees from 38 countries, providing 13,000 hours of training.
We have already seen the strong impact of our training programmes, through requests received from African countries, both for the training of their staff and for the transfer of expertise to establish similar institutes.
We seek to cooperate with more African countries, increase the number of trainees and training hours, and diversify the topics covered by the courses.
In this context, the EBI organises its fourth training programme in January 2020, before the end of Egypt’s presidency of the African Union in March 2020. The programme will be on the development of exports, so as to teach African banks how to develop exports in their countries.
Will the EBI go beyond the 38 African countries it currently deals with?
Nosseir: The EBI is preparing a study to establish a special training unit in cooperation with African countries.
This study examines the needs of African countries in banking training. If we find a need for these services, the EBI will obtain the approval of its board of directors to establish the unit.
This study has an office part that has already been finished, and the second was commissioned to an independent research body to do it, after which the decision will be made.
Are there other areas of cooperation with African countries in the field of training?
Refaat: We also cooperate with the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to train users from African countries of “Mansa” – a pan-African customer due diligence platform – which was established by the Bank to collect all the information on banks and companies operating in Africa.
Eighty-three trainees have already been trained, through five courses. We have six other training programmes to be offered from October to December 2019.
Regarding the Egyptian banking sector, does the EBI only offer internal training?
Abdel Razek: The EBI organises field visits to some countries to get acquainted with their experiences in different fields. For example, we made a visit to Kenya to get acquainted with its experience in the field of small and medium enterprises, as it is one of the very developed countries in this area.
There are also some Egyptian banks that have requested field visits to some foreign countries such as South Africa to get acquainted with their experiences in some fields, and the EBI arranged that visit.
What about the role of the EBI in training Egyptian banks on financial technology?
Nosseir: We ask for support from countries in some fields, as other countries do with us. This is the role of the Department of Foreign Relations and International Cooperation, which attracts experts.
The EBI launched the “Information Security” initiative, in cooperation with the information technology sector and payment systems at the CBE, where a training programme has been developed for a period of a year, to prepare 100 information security experts from the information sector workers in the Egyptian banks.
This course began several months ago and is offered in cooperation with international institutions with expertise in this field at the highest level in the world.
With regard to modern technology applications, such as blockchain, the EBI has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Information Technology Institute several months ago, under the auspices of the CBE and the Ministry of Communications to come up with clear educational paths that serve the banking sector’s workers in this field.
We now have over 36 trainees in specialised programmes.
There is a continuous cooperation between the EBI and the payment systems and information technology in the CBE, which resulted in the establishment of the Seamless Conference.
We also organise external field visits, such as Silicon Valley in America and India. We are now planning more visits to Malaysia and Singapore.
The demand for financial technology training programmes has increased dramatically in recent times.
What about the student training programme?
Nosseir: This programme was initiated by the CBE about 10 years ago, through a grant under the title of “Training for Employment Grant”, under the social responsibility of the CBE and the EBI. The total number of graduates reached about 17,000.
The programme is free, especially for students of public universities in the third and fourth grades, and provides about 138 training hours, through which the students learn the basics of banking.
Success rates in the programme range between 40-70%, and a list of successful candidates is provided to banks for recruitment as per the needs of each bank.
The training is available for other students from private universities or those who did not receive the grant at full pay. In addition, the institute offers this programme to students of some foreign universities, upon request, such as the American University in Cairo.
What are the new services the EBI provides to banks?
Nosseir: The EBI covers all fields of human resources and infrastructure development in the banking sector.
The institute has started two years ago to provide training courses far from what it used to offer before, for example, sign language programmes for employees in the customer service departments “tellers” so that they can deal with people with special needs, and also provide programmes for those working in security sectors, transportation, and headquarters management.
We hope that the EBI will be an educational “beacon” for all employees in the African banking sector.
This is a dream that we started and claim that we are on the right track, and our numbers show that.
All this would not have happened without the unprecedented support received by the EBI from the governor of the CBE.