Absa grants R5.8bn payment relief to cash-strapped customers

By Roxanne Henderson

(Bloomberg) – Absa Group has granted payment relief to 376,000 account holders in its retail and business banking unit amid South Africa’s efforts to contain the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of R5.8bn ($309m) over three months has been extended to clients since March 30, the Johannesburg-based lender said in a statement.

The measures are part of a range of options Absa is offering customers on a case-by-case basis. South African banks are also in the process of providing loans through a government-backed program to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Absa will continue to assess the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on clients and whether further help from banks will be necessary, said Bongiwe Gangeni, Absa’s deputy chief executive officer for retail and business banking. The lender, which has been expanding its operations in Africa, will also reconsider some of its own priorities.

“It can’t be that we simply pause the work we were doing prior to lockdown and afterward we will simply press play,” Gangeni said. “There’s going to have to be an introspection around where we find ourselves and whether the things we have been focusing on doing are still relevant given where we are.”

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