The Tanzania banking sector embarked on a plan for financial liberalization in 1992 in order to sustain its economic growth.
This has been accomplished through the mobilization of financial resources as well as by increasing competition in the financial market and by enhancing the quality and efficiency of credit allocation.
The total assets have increased by 60%, from $ 1.7 billion at the end of 1999 to $ 2.7 billion at the end of June 2004.
Because of this, new merchant banks, commercial banks, bureau de change, insurance companies, a stock exchange and related financial units have entered the market.
With a total of 27 banks and a few non-banking financial institutions, which are not allowed to open current accounts, the market is characterized by a few big players and several small banks.
In Tanzania, 90% of deposits are in the hands of eight banking institutions, namely three local banks and five foreign banks.
Local banks primarily service local customers while foreign banks tend to operate as subsidiaries of large groups, such as Citigroup and Barclays, using strategies oriented to the international market.
As a consequence, foreign banks focus on international customers and national clients who prefer to keep their deposits in foreign currencies.
There are four categories of banks, oriented towards different markets and clientele operating in Tanzania: local private banks, regional banks, international banks and multinational banks.
Overall, the outlook for the banking industry in Tanzania is very positive and there are appealing opportunities for new comers to the sector.
Currently, there is a positive trend in lending to SMEs that is producing greater confidence in their growth potential among financial institutions and, more generally, in the economy as well, which is generating a positive spiral.
In addition, the government is also introducing new laws that are expected to enhance lending activities.