Standard Bank wants to take advantage of its presence in the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) to expand its service offering across the rest of Francophone Africa, which the lender believes is poised to experience an investment boom as foreign companies are lured by the region’s mineral wealth and economic growth.
Standard bank opened in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in November last year to service its 145 clients with operations in Francophone Africa in sectors ranging from mining, oil and gas, infrastructure, power and energy to fast moving consumer goods. The company said at the time that the investment signified a deliberate drive into West Francophone Africa due to Ivory Coast’s membership of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), which includes Benin, Burkina Fasso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
“It’s fair to say that we’ll be using the Ivory Coast office as a launchpad into the rest of the region. Francophone West Africa is less well-known to South Africans but it cannot be ignored due to the economic potential,” said Greg Goeller, Executive for Client Coverage Africa at Standard Bank’s Corporate and Investment Banking unit. “The region has all the components to benefit from the next global mining and infrastructure boom, which in turn will lead to economic growth in other sectors as well. Our clients are increasing presence and exposure to West Francophone Africa and we plan to follow them.”
In addition to the countries making up the UEMOA, Standard Bank also plans to expand its focus to include the six nations that comprise the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), which include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. These two monetary unions (CEMAC & UEMOA) have combined populations of 148 million people and a cumulative nominal gross domestic product of $167 billion.
Goeller says these nations have the advantage in that their currency (CFA franc) is guaranteed by the French treasury while both the currencies used in the two monetary unions, the West and Central African CFA francs, are pegged to the euro.
He adds that while inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in Francophone Africa has thus far been largely linked to mining and resources, with the sector accounting for 83.9 percent of the total value of deals completed in Gabon, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone and the Republic of Congo between 2008 and 2012, this is likely to change over time.