Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Open Letter to Robin Sherbourne / Nedbank Namibia & Old Mutual Namibia

I am sitting in Germany struggling to establish a Credit Register System in Namibia. I have been working on this project for over 12 years in the hope that with such a system there would be more affordable credit for poor people and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME's) in my country.

With very little funding (and no salary), I have managed to get this idea on to the national agenda. All financial institutions and supervisory bodies understand the need for a credit register system to allow financial inclusion - access to banking services especially by the poor, black people of our country. To get this idea to the public I have been sending emails to individuals within government and the business sector since 1997.

This morning (6 April 2011) I sent a copy of a blog about the need for a Credit Register in India to the financial services community in Namibia.
"... one of the major complaints against micro-finance institutions (MFIs) is the widespread trend of multiple borrowings by poor people. Though unaware of the credit histories of their borrowers, MFI lenders were carried away by the belief in their ability to recover loans and gave loans without proper due diligence. The result was poor people saddled with multiple loans from different MFIs, with atleast some of them being merely used to reschedule or repay older loans. "

Great was my surprise when I received the following email from Robin Sherbourne, Group Economist, Old Mutual Namibia (email address:

Please stop sending me emails. The IPPR is still trying to recover money you owe us from 2004. I can’t believe how duplicitous you have been yet you have the nerve to write about ethics and helping SMEs – unbelievable! You give BEE a bad name.


Robin Sherbourne
Group Economist
Old Mutual Namibia

* duplicitous - marked by deliberate deceptiveness especially by pretending one set of feelings and acting under the influence of another

I have previously written about my bad debts in my book, Future Namibia, as well as numerous times on my blog, so will not bore you with it here. (See end note later)

My immediate reaction was one of anger. After all, I am fighting to get a Credit Register established to assist the consumers of my country without any return on that investment after twelve years. Then I carefully reread his email. I don't mind the personal words. "Sticks and stones, Will break my bones, But names will never hurt me."

BUT I do mind the sentence, you give Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) a bad name. Wow racism has become very sophisticated in Namibia. Do you mean to tell me that because I am not white, and have a default judgement, you, Nedbank Namibia and Old Mutual are no longer interested in the "public good"¹?

No Mr. Sherbourne, you clearly indicate a lack of understanding of what it is to be financially previously disadvantaged or why the banking services need to be forced to bank the unbanked.

1. public good in reference: ....private banks may not find it worthwhile to incur the high costs of screening
and monitoring SMEs because, once these borrowers have a good credit history, they can
obtain credit from other lenders, who will not have to bear the initial costs for screening.
This suggests that information on creditworthiness is basically a public good, in the sense
that it is non-rival in consumption and it is very costly to exclude anyone from using it.
When the market fails to let banks appropriate the returns of information about their costumers,
banks will under-invest in the acquisition of such information.

Yes, I have a default judgement in favour IPPR (a private research organisation). I don't often get paid for what I do, but when I do, I have been paying this debt. However, the IPPR and their lawyers have made it a habit of harassing me whenever I get employment by delivering a summons. Then of course, I leave that office of employment and we do the merry dance again.

The IPPR has made it clear that the data I collect is free (to them) and part of publicly available data. Okay, so I continue to provide it free of charge and make no money with which to pay them. Call this lack of charging income because of the outstanding judgement my equivalent of a "Namibian stand-off".

Full blog here: