Standard Bank to open Ethiopian office

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Addis Ababa, 2 May 2014 (WIC) – Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank by assets, will open a representative office in Ethiopia this year, its latest annual report noted, which could create a platform into Africa’s second-most populous nation and stretch its footprint to 20 African countries.

Establishing a presence in Ethiopia, with a population of about 92-million people and which is second in size only to Nigeria, with about 174-million people, will pave the way for Standard Bank to seek opportunities for establishing banking activities in that country.

When asked about Standard Bank’s plans in Ethiopia, a spokesman for the bank offered little insight on Wednesday, saying only: "We are in the process of finalising the details."
According to data from the National Bank of Ethiopia, the country’s central bank, there are 18 private banks and three state-owned banks.

Bank ownership in Ethiopia is legally closed to foreign ownership, meaning only Ethiopians are allowed to own and operate financial institutions.

The opening of a representative office by Standard Bank raises questions about whether the bank is moving in anticipation of the future liberalisation of Ethiopia’s banking sector.

Togo-headquartered Ecobank opened a representative office in Ethiopia last year, saying this was "ahead of the anticipated deregulation of the banking sector" there.

The establishment of an Ethiopian representative office comes after Standard Bank opened a representative office in Côte d’Ivoire late last year.

The office in Cote d’Ivoire has allowed Standard Bank to co-ordinate financing for commodity transactions without needing to have a banking licence in that country. The bank has used its network of banks and partnerships outside of that country to complete deals.

Among South African-headquartered banks with businesses in Africa, Standard Bank’s geographical footprint on the continent is unrivalled, with Barclays Africa Group in second place.

Including South Africa, Barclays Africa Group has operations in 13 African countries, as well as representative offices in Namibia and Nigeria. However, other South African banks such as FirstRand have repeatedly indicated that their plans were to have a presence in key African growth markets and not in as many countries.

Standard Bank, excluding South Africa, has about 3.8-million customers, 557 branches and 1,223 ATMs, according to its latest annual report. Barclays Africa Group, excluding South Africa, has about 2.5-million customers in its Africa operations, 485 branches and 1,162 ATMs, according to its latest annual report. (bdlive.com)