That’s the way it is

Over time I’ve suggested a couple of times to Amadou to open a bank account and start saving up a bit of money. The answer has always been the same:
‘All banks are thieves, they just take your money. No thanks, I’ll just give it to you and you can guard it.’
And so has happened.

Coming from a country where banks are quite thoroughly controlled by the government as well as by independent supervisors, the Malian banking experience has been quite an interesting one.

Upon opening my bank account I asked for the costs involved. No costs involved I was assured.
Sure enough there’s a monthly fee.
The costs for an international bank transfer turned out to add up to € 70 per transfer.
‘It’s your bank in The Netherlands who steals your money, not us!’, I was told. Well, other international transfers from the same Dutch bank account to other countries do not have the money-disappearing-along-the-journey…
Exchanging Euros to Francs CFA was free for account holders if I’d put the money into my account first and then withdrew it, whereas a fee was involved for a direct exchange. Well, the account is there, so why not use it? They forgot to mention that you have to leave it in your account for a couple of days before the withdrawal. It turning into costs being way higher…
Use a check for paying your bills and you’ll not have to pay for the stamp; the costs for the use of a check being higher than the price of the stamp…
The list of experiences was growing every month. I had visited the director a couple of times to talk about all these things and he looked at me with a mixture of pity and a grin, not showing the respect Malians are known for.
‘It’s just the way it is, we do not steal your money.’

I had told them a couple of times that if the costs wouldn’t go down, I would change banks. He was not at all impressed. It being the same everywhere, as they stated.
So, I left and did a tour along the other banks, asking clearly for all fees involved. Some where even more expensive, others treated me as if I were a fool to even consider asking for the costs involved in an account.

Until I entered one of the newer banks in town. The atmosphere was very welcoming and the employees were obviously liking their jobs. I had a talk with the director, who was very helpful, showing me all the lists of fees, explaining how I could open an account and the costs involved.

When I returned to actually open the account, he started talking about my business. He had in between studied my website and liked what he had seen. Not only was he excited about my company, he even offered to get me in touch with some people of organizations that I might be interested in, such as some small scale co-operations in villages.
I was blown away! What a huge difference with the other bank and the people working with them!

I once more visited the old bank, to close my account. I got that same look as on previous visits and just one question:
‘Why?’
‘Because I’ve found a less expensive bank’, I replied.
‘That’ll cost you 5.750 FCFA’, he stated with a smile, obviously happy to have me pay one more time.
I was flabbergasted!
‘Are you actually telling me that I have to pay to close my account’, I asked with disbelieve in my voice and on my face.
‘Oh yes, that’s the way it is,’ he happily told me.
I paid, signed the papers and told him to close my account really quick…
It was a relieve beyond words to leave the building, freed from all the hidden costs and the not so pleasant energy.

I now have internet banking, and a bank crew thinking along 🙂
That’s the way it is!

About MoInMali

Monique is the founder of Papillon Reizen, a Mali based travel agency specialized in inspiring journeys in Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin. Fair-trade and with a heart for people, environment and culture. Small-scale group journeys as well as family trips and journeys tailored to your wishes. We love to share West Africa's beauty with you and take you on a journey to experience rather than to see. Monique lives in Mali with her Malian partner and shares some of her daily life experiences with you through this blog. For information on Papillon Reizen: www.papillonreizen.com
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