West & Central Africa: Results disappoint but outlook is bright

West & Central Africa: Results disappoint but outlook is bright

The biggest bank in West Africa this year is Zenith Bank. The company retains top spot in spite of a fall in capital from $2.9bn to $2.7bn since our 2013 survey.

Ecobank Transnational moves up from third to second, pushing First Bank of Nigeria down into third position. Although Nigerian banks have not had the best of years, they continue to dominate our regional table.

There are 16 Nigerian companies in the West African top 25 and all 16 of these feature in the top 19. The only other countries to break this Nigerian monopoly are Togo, where Ecobank is registered, Mali with Bank of Africa Group and Gabon’s BGFI Bank

Ghana is the second-best-represented country in our table, with Ecobank Ghana, Standard Chartered Bank Ghana and Ghana Commercial Bank all securing a listing. Given the current pace of economic growth in the country, it would be surprising if these or other Ghanaian banks were not to feature higher up the table over the next few years.

The poor results of Nigerian banks are demonstrated by the falling threshold required to enter our regional table. Access Bank Ghana required Tier 1 capital of $91m to secure 25th place in our 2013 table, but Afriland Bank needed just $81m to take the same spot this year.

The earnings of Nigerian and Ghanaian banks have been affected by the weakness of the naira and cedi respectively.

West Africa

By far the worst-represented part of Africa in our report is Central Africa. BGFI and Cameroon’s Afriland Bank are the only representatives from Central Africa in our West and Central African region, despite the fact that the latter is home to about a fifth of the continent’s population and possesses great oil and mining wealth.

Democratic Republic of Congo is notable by its absence but the private sector is poorly developed across the entire region, with the possible exception of Cameroon. Most wealth is produced by foreign oil and mining companies that transfer revenue directly to local governments, with relatively little role for local companies or banks.

Acquisition developments
Atlas Mara, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and owned by Bob Diamond and Ashish Thakkar, is one of the new players in the market. It was set up at the end of last year but has already bought banks in Rwanda and Botswana and has now turned its attention to West Africa.

It bought a 77% stake in the Development Bank of Rwanda and paid $265m for BancABC, which operates in five Southern African Development Community (SADC) markets.


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Written by Tom Nevin

Tom Nevin is a South African journalist, researcher and author and contributes to a selection of publications in South Africa and abroad. He is associate editor of London-based African Business and editor of Business Word Botswana. He is leading a programme that actively promotes small and micro power projects as a first step in encouraging the economic upliftment of the continent rural poor.

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