By Samuel Sanya
President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday officially opened the Centenary Bank's ultra-modern Mapeera House complex in the city's central business district.
With 19 floors, the $40m (sh100b) the imposing complex, the latest addition to the city's skyline, is the tallest and most modern bank headquarters in Uganda. There are 24 teller points and 16 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) in the new Centenary Bank headquarters.
The complex contains 17,000 square meters of office space and 16,000 square meters of parking space. The building was constructed using the locally generated resources of the Bank which has 1.2 million loyal customers. The Bank's capital has in the last 25 years grown close to Shs.140 billion with assets nearing Shs1,000 billion.
It's named after the first Catholic missionary in Uganda Father Lourdel Simeon who arrived in 1879 and was fondly called Mapeera, an imitation of the French term Mon Pere (my father).
The opening of the Mapeera house complex was part of celebrations to mark over 25 years of Centenary Bank existence, the largest Ugandan founded bank by assets, customer base and capitalization.
"The church has done a lot of work in the education and medical sectors and in evangelism. It is time for you to spearhead wealth creation in the various parishes around the country," the President said at the colourful ceremony that attracted hundreds of dignitaries.
Kampala Road was blocked for several hours for the ceremony during which the President had a handshake, among others, with City Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago.
Museveni urged the clergy should ensure that locals move from subsistence agriculture to producing both for consumption and for the markets in order to drive 68% of Uganda's population into the money economy.
Museveni said banks should know the economic status of their client base in order to provide the suitable banking products and to develop the economic welfare of the country's citizens.
Bishop John Baptist Odama, the archbishop of Gulu diocese and the chairman of the Uganda Episcopal conference revealed that the Mapeera house complex was entirely funded from the banks reserves and that no loan had been taken out.
Nineteen Catholic dioceses own 38.5% of the bank as individual shareholders, while the Catholic secretariat owns 31.3% shareholding, French firm SIDI 11.6%, and the Netherland based Stiching Hivos Triopods Fonds 18.3%. Another 0.3% is owned by other Ugandans.
"There is enough money circulating in the country to accomplish such large projects. I urge Ugandans to source project funds internally and only acquire external funds as a supplement," Odama explained.
Maria Kiwanuka, the finance minister, reiterated government's commitment to improving vital infrastructure and in so doing to promote the private sector which provides up 80% of Uganda's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
"Government is working closely with commercial banks to ensure that the youth are empowered through the $25b youth fund. It's encouraging to note that over 3,000 youth have received business startup loans so far," she said.
Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu, the bank board chairman said the bank will focus its efforts on establishing it's self as the top micro finance provider in coming years.
Henry Banyenzaki, the Minister for economic monitoring, Jachan Omach the state minister for general duties, Cardinal Emanuel Wamala and Erias Lukwago, the Kampala mayor graced the event.