The Trade-Off between Banking Outreach And Profitability: Evidence From selected South African Development Countries

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Andrew Maredza

Keywords

South African Development Countries (SADC), Banking outreach, Bank Profitability, Bank Sustainability

Abstract

In this paper, the fixed effects method known as the least squares dummy variable (LSDV) technique was applied to investigate the possibility of a trade-off between bank profitability indicators and banking outreach (expanding access to banking services) by analysing a panel of 10 South African Development Countries (SADC). Of the fifteen SADC member countries (Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic Of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), five (Botswana, Congo, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe) had to be excluded for lack of consistent data throughout our period of analysis. The author investigates whether expanding banking access and pursuing profitability are complementary goals in the same direction or are two conflicting goals. For estimation robustness, two indicators of profitability were used namely return on average assets (ROAA) and return on average equity (ROAE). IMF Financial Access Survey (FAS) data for each country namely, deposit accounts per capita and the number of bank branches per 1000 km2 were used as indicators of bank outreach or access. Operational inefficiency, insolvency risk and credit risk were found to exert a negative impact on both ROA and ROE. Net interest margin a proxy for interest based services and off-balance sheet activities were statistically significant and positively related with bank profitability. Central to the study was that expanding banking access was found to exert a statistically significant and positive impact on profitability for some SADC countries. However, contrary to the author`s expectation, for some countries, the indicator of outreach was inversely related with the chosen indicators of profitability. The researcher however, argues that any form of intervention aimed at improving the state of access to those financially excluded cannot be evaluated from a cost or profit perspective alone but must be all-inclusive taking into account the social and economic benefits to the society as a whole. The major purpose of financial inclusion is to reach the poor and disadvantaged segments of the population. Hence, the author cautions that although attaining high profitability is an important policy objective for ensuring sustainability and financial stability, it is certainly not the only priority. Access to banking services, social inclusion and consumer protection are equally important policy priorities. There is therefore need for government support and a general holistic stakeholder approach to the problem of banking exclusion in order to generate solutions that achieve both profitability and outreach in a balanced fashion.

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