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Enat Bank: Empowering Women of Ethiopia

This article was cross-posted from www.marcopolis.net. Interview with Meaza Ashenafi, Chairperson of Enat Bank.

1. What is your overview of the banking sector and what is your outlook for 2014 and onward?

In Ethiopia, private banks started to flourish since 1994. Before 1994, there were no private banks; there were three public government-owned banks. But after 1994, sixteen private banks have been established and I see this as a big opportunity, because as you know, finance is key and Ethiopia is one of the most under-banked countries by sub-Saharan standards. I see this as a great opportunity and also a great leap forward.

2. Can you give us a brief history of Enat Bank and what were some hurdles that faced the establishment of this financial institution?

The story of Enat Bank is quite interesting and I also believe it is quite unique in many ways. It’s unique because professional and business women came together and made a difficult decision to establish a bank. When we came up with this idea, many people thought it was a joke because when people think of women and banking, they usually think in terms of micro-finance. But here, we wanted to change the narrative; we wanted to change the story about women and finance, and women and economic empowerment. So it was eleven women who came together and decided to start this bank. It was a challenging journey, particularly for certain reasons. Capital was a big challenge but we managed to pull together the required funds and open the bank.

3. Enat means mother and it probably took you a bit of time to come up with the name. What was the reason behind choosing that name for the brand?

Initially our proposed name was Women’s Bank of Ethiopia and fortunately for us, that name was not approved by the Ministry of Trade that approves trade names. Initially we were quite discouraged because we really advertised ourselves with that name but then we sat down and reflected and brainstormed and consulted other people. That is how we came up with the name for Enat Bank. It became a brand and it became quite powerful because in Ethiopia, the literal meaning of Enat is “mother” but it goes beyond that. It’s about loyalty, care, embracing, foundation, and even about earth. Even in our sayings, even if a man is good, they say he is enat. It is very profound; so, we are very happy with that name. This project has a lot of sympathy from the public, the government has also encouraged us, the presence of the Prime Minster and the First Lady of our country at the launching ceremony of the Bank is a demonstration of their commitment to women’s economic empowerment as a key input to national development.

Read the full interview here.