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Access to banking services at a reasonable cost is becoming more common in Africa, thanks to the spread of mobile telephone service in rural and remote areas where landlines are out of the question. There is a growing competition between telecom providers and banks for the right to offer basic, no-frills mobile banking accounts. There is also a growing collaboration by the two sectors on more-advanced digital banking services.

In Kenya, telecom network operator Safaricom handles $26 billion in mobile payments annually through M-Pesa. Now, Kenya’s two biggest banks are getting in on the action. Equity Bank acquired a telecom license of its own last year and plans to introduce a mobile virtual network, while KCB has joined with Safaricom to offer M-Pesa users savings accounts and payroll products.

Regional Winner | Standard Bank

Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank by assets, signed the closing documents in February to sell a 60% stake in its London subsidiary to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The proceeds from the transaction will be used to further strengthen Standard Bank’s operations on the African continent. The South Africa—based bank has operations in 20 countries, where it has been introducing innovative products, such as contactless cards and mobile payment solutions. Offerings released last year include Pay-Plus in Ghana, Till2Bank in partnership with M-Pesa in Kenya, and iServe in Malawi.

Standard Bank is distributing insurance and new risk products for the African market, where only 3% of the population has any form of insurance. Within South Africa, Standard Bank’s AccessBanking solutions have opened up a market of almost 10 million new customers by bringing underprivileged people into the mainstream economy.

Standard Bank posted a 20% rise in earnings from continuing operations in 2014 and raised its dividend by 12%. The bank’s net interest income rose 15%, and it lowered its loan-loss provisions by 2%, as nonperforming loans outside of South Africa declined. While South Africa’s economy grew only 1.5% last year, hampered by mining strikes and electricity shortages, GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa was 5%.

Ben Kruger and Sim Tshabalala, group CEOs (joint)

Algeria | Arab Banking Corp Algeria

Arab Banking Corporation Algeria is a universal bank serving retail and corporate customers through a head office in Algiers and 23 branches. It is a subsidiary of Bahrain-based Arab Banking Corporation. The bank’s corporate and trade finance activities provided much of its profits in Algeria in recent years, but it is expanding into home loans, known as “souka,” and insurance. The decline in oil prices has forced Algeria to postpone several projects, but the country has nearly $200 billion in foreign exchange reserves and plans to maintain spending on social programs.

Noreddin Nahawi, CEO

Angola | Standard Bank Angola

Standard Bank Angola has built up its loan book, while keeping nonperforming loans at a low level. The Angolan bank is also a full-service investment bank. It has slowed the pace of its branch expansion in the country, where it now has a presence in nearly every province. Petroleum exports account for 95% of Angola’s international trade, but Standard Bank conducts less than half its business with the oil industry.

Pedro Coelho, CEO

Botswana | Standard Chartered Bank Botswana

Standard Chartered opened its first branch in Botswana in 1897, and it now has a network of 19 branches in the country. The local economy relies heavily on diamond mining, and Standard Chartered provides financial support to the industry. The bank is also funding small and medium enterprises, which are helping the economy to diversify. Recent strong loan growth has bolstered the bank’s profitability.

Moatlhodi Lekaukau, CEO

Burkina Faso | United Bank for Africa (Burkina Faso)

United Bank for Africa, a leading pan-African bank with operations in 19 African countries, has 26 branches in Burkina Faso. That makes it the group’s largest banking operation outside of its home market of Nigeria. Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, is part of the CFA franc zone. UBA offers a prepaid Visa card and has insurance and stock brokerage affiliates.

Alphonse Kadjo, managing director and CEO

Cameroon | United Bank for Africa (Cameroon)

United Bank for Africa is one of the biggest issuers of payment cards in Africa. In partnership with MasterCard, UBA is introducing payment cards in all 19 countries where it is present. UBA has 15 branches in Cameroon, where it began operating in 2007. The bank focuses on lending to the oil and gas, telecom and agricultural sectors.

Udom Isong, CEO

CÔte d’Ivoire | Société Générale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire

Société Générale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire is the country’s largest bank. Established in 1962, it has 67 branches and has securities/custody and asset management affiliates. The bank plans to open as many as 10 new branches this year and has boosted profitability on a sharp rise in loans. Côte d’Ivoire’s economy has been growing rapidly in recent years following decades of political instability.

Hubert de Saint Jean

Democratic Republic of Congo | Trust Merchant Bank

TMB, a locally owned, independent bank, operates in every major city and province of the country with its 74-branch network. The bank’s mobile banking service, Pepele, offers payment and money-transfer services, as well as deposits and withdrawals. It is also used to manage the payrolls of 29% of Congo’s civil service employees. TMB has maintained a high level of profitability owing to its local insight and customer service.

Oliver Meisenberg, CEO

Djibouti | BCIMR

Red Sea Trade and Industry Bank—BCIMR according to its French initials—has a 60% market share in Djibouti in terms of loans and deposits. BCIMR is a subsidiary of Bred Banque Populaire, part of BPCE Group, which holds a 51% stake. The Djibouti government holds a 33% share. BCIMR specializes in trade finance and offers a full range of banking services. It has a branch in Somalia and recently opened a representative office in Ethiopia.

Jean-Pierre Gianotti, CEO

Ethiopia | Commercial Bank of Ethiopia

Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, the country’s largest bank, has 919 branches and more than 63% of the country’s bank deposits. The government-owned bank opened more than 150 new branches last year, as the economy continued its fast growth. Largely agricultural Ethiopia is rapidly industrializing under the government’s growth and transformation plan.

Bekalu Zeleke, president

Gambia | Standard Chartered Bank Gambia

Standard Chartered, the country’s oldest financial institution, has been operating in Gambia since 1894. The bank has five branches and five off-site ATMs. Remittances from Gambians living abroad are the country’s main source of foreign exchange. Standard Chartered derives about 70% of its local earnings from FX.

Humphrey Mukwereza, CEO

Ghana | GCB Bank

GCB Bank is the largest bank in Ghana. GCB is well capitalized and has invested heavily in technology to upgrade customer service. Ghana recently secured a $1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to stabilize the economy. Real GDP growth slowed to less than 4% last year amid power shortages, following several years of 8% annual growth.

Simon Dornoo, managing director

Guinea | FBN Bank Guinea

FBN Bank Guinea is a subsidiary of FirstBank of Nigeria, which acquired it from International Commercial Bank in November 2013. All of its branches are currently in Conakry, the capital city, but FBN Bank plans to open an “up-country” branch. While Guinea’s economy has been affected by the Ebola virus and grew only 0.5% last year, FBN Bank’s loan portfolio rose 7.7%.

Akeem Oladele, CEO

Kenya | Equity Bank

Equity Bank Kenya’s parent group posted a 29% growth in earnings for 2014, as well as a 24% increase in its balance sheet. The regional financial services firm says all of its subsidiaries in East Africa contributed to the rise in profits. Equity Bank Kenya recently introduced a contactless, prepaid card in conjunction with MasterCard for use in paying bus fares in Kenya and for shopping worldwide.

James Mwangi, CEO and managing director

Madagascar | Bank of Africa—Madagascar

Bank of Africa—Madagascar has 65 branches in this island country off the east coast of Africa. The bank accounts for about a third of Madagascar’s bank lending. Bank of Africa—Madagascar offers mobile banking services in partnership with Airtel Money.

René Formey de Saint Louvent, managing director

Mali | Bank of Africa—Mali

Landlocked Mali, with a poverty rate of 43%, is struggling to get its economy growing again, following a 2012 coup. It depends heavily on international aid. Bank of Africa, which has operations in 16 countries, maintains its group headquarters in Bamako, Mali’s capital city, where it was founded in 1982. BMCE Bank in Morocco is Bank of Africa’s largest shareholder.

Mamadou Igor Diarra, managing director

Mauritius | Barclays Bank of Mauritius

The island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is an important offshore banking center with a well-developed infrastructure. Barclays Bank has 25 branches in the country, where it was the first international bank to establish operations in 1919.

Ravin Dajee, managing director

Morocco | Attijariwafa Bank

Attijariwafa Bank, the leading bank in Morocco, operates in 23 countries, with a network of 3,300 branches. It acquired a majority stake in BIA-Togo in 2013, the same year it opened its first branch in Niger. Attijariwafa is present in 12 African countries and has branches in Europe and the Middle East. It partnered with Qatar National Bank to promote mutual business in capital markets, trade finance and investment flows between Qatar and Morocco.

Mohamed El Kettani, chairman and CEO

Mozambique | Millennium bim

Millennium bim is Mozambique’s largest bank, with a nationwide network of 166 branches. Portugal’s Millennium bcp is the majority owner. The Millennium (Z) mobile-banking service is expanding rapidly in rural areas of the country. Customers can use it to buy prepaid electricity vouchers and to check their meter readings. The bank’s return on equity was 22.3% last year.

Manuel Marecos Duarte, CEO

Namibia | Bank Windhoek

Bank Windhoek, a subsidiary of Capricorn Investment Holdings, has 51 branches in this sparsely populated desert nation in Southwest Africa. The bank’s noninterest income rose 16.4% last year, reflecting growth in transaction banking and electronic banking channels. Namibia’s economy relies on mining for much of its export earnings and is closely linked to that of South Africa.

Christo de Vries, managing director

Nigeria | FirstBank of Nigeria

FirstBank of Nigeria, the country’s largest bank by assets, issued a $450 million eurobond last year to extend the maturity of its debt and to support lending to the corporate sector. The bank has 867 branches. In 2013, FirstBank acquired four banks in West Africa from International Commercial Bank.

Olabisi Onasanya, group managing director and CEO

Rwanda | Bank of Kigali

The largest bank in Rwanda by assets, Bank of Kigali controls about a third of the country’s bank lending. By opening new branches and introducing new products and services, the bank increased its assets by 23.5% in fiscal 2014, ended last September. The well-capitalized bank has a nationwide network of 70 branches. In addition to serving large corporations, it is the leading lender to SMEs.

James Gatera, CEO

Senegal | Bank of Africa—Senegal

Bank of Africa has 28 branches in Senegal, where it has been growing rapidly. The bank partnered with French telecom Orange to offer mobile banking services. The capital city of Dakar is home to the Central Bank of West African States, which serves eight countries in the region that belong to an economic and monetary union.

Laurent Basque, managing director

Sierra Leone | Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone

Standard Chartered Bank has operated for 120 years in Sierra Leone. The mineral-rich country’s economic growth has been blunted by the Ebola outbreak. The International Monetary Fund recently approved $115 million in financing and debt relief to help the government deal with the crisis. Sierra Leone’s mineral exports include diamonds, titanium, iron ore and bauxite.

Albert Saltson, CEO

South Africa | FirstRand Bank

FirstRand, Africa’s largest bank by market capitalization, had a return on equity of 24.2% in the year through June 2014. FirstRand relies on transaction banking for about 36% of revenue. Its focus has been on South Africa, although it is cautiously expanding its reach throughout the continent. FirstRand has a provisional license in Ghana and could beef up its rep offices in Angola and Kenya.

Sizwe Errol Nxasana, group CEO

Togo | Ecobank Togo

Ecobank Togo, the oldest bank in the Ecobank group, has 23 branches and a market share of approximately 25%. Togo hosts the headquarters of Ecobank Transnational, the parent company of the pan-African banking group.

Didier Alexandre Correa, managing director

Tunisia | Banque Internationale | Arabe de Tunisie

BIAT, the largest private-sector bank in Tunisia, opened 16 new branches last year, bringing the total to 185 branches. In addition to retail and commercial banking, BIAT offers capital markets services, insurance, brokerage and mutual funds. The bank has increased provisions to cover a rise in nonperforming loans.

Mohamed Agrebi, CEO

Uganda | Barclays Bank of Uganda

Barclays has 51 branches in Uganda, where it commenced operations in 1927. The bank has been upgrading its services this year, including Prestige Banking, which offers express service, life insurance and a Visa platinum debit card. Its new CashSend program enables customers to send money to anyone with a mobile phone and access to a Barclays ATM.

Rakesh Jha, managing director and CEO

Zambia | Standard Chartered Bank Zambia

Standard Chartered, one of the largest and most profitable banks in Zambia, has 25 branches and a market share of about 20%. Standard Chartered’s mobile banking service is available on all three telecom networks in Zambia: Airtel, MTN and Zamtel. Zambia relies on copper for 75% of its export earnings.

Andrew Okai, CEO

Zimbabwe | Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe

Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe, part of Standard Bank Group, posted a 13% rise in earnings in 2014 on a 10% rise in net interest income. The bank operates 20 branches in Zimbabwe, where its customers in the mining and energy sectors are experiencing improved cash flows. The bank’s return on equity declined to 27% last year from 33% in 2013, as it continued to build up capital to meet the Reserve Bank’s $100 million minimum capital requirement by 2020.

Joshua Tapambgwa, CEO


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