Africa’s fast-growing economies, FinTech innovation, and stable trade agreements offer abundant opportunities for CIB Egypt. Hisham Ezz Al-Arab, CIB Egypt’s Chairman & Managing Director, discusses the bank’s strategic expansion into Eastern Africa and strong position as financial partner to customers across the continent.
Global Finance: CIB Egypt launched its African expansion last year, with an Addis Ababa commercial rep office and recent acquisition of a bank in Kenya. Why is Eastern Africa an attractive market?
Hisham Ezz Al-Arab: We see strong potential for CIB in sub-Saharan Africa and acquired 51% of what is now Mayfair CIB Bank Limited in Kenya in April 2020. Eastern Africa is an important market for us because it is central to most Egypt–Sub-Saharan Africa trade. Trade agreements, such as COMESA, make member countries more attractive trading partners. Moreover, Eastern Africa is geographically and historically connected to Egypt through the Nile River.
GF: Why was Kenya your first acquisition outside Egypt and what challenges did you face beyond your home market?
Ezz Al-Arab: Our acquisition was driven by trade and corporate lending opportunities in Kenya and the tremendous potential for bilateral trade and investment flows between Egypt and Kenya. Kenya is the regional hub of Eastern Africa and Egypt’s largest trading partner within COMESA. Kenya’s coastal trade infrastructure and connectivity with landlocked neighbors are compelling strategic advantages. Kenya’s strong economic growth and renowned FinTech expertise will benefit CIB in this market.
Kenya is a new market for CIB, so our main challenge was finding the right local partner. Fortunately, we found a diversified, cooperative group of shareholders who are fully aligned with our strategy. Kenya’s regulatory bodies, particularly the Central Bank of Kenya, were also very supportive of our acquisition.
GF: Many people across Africa live in cash economies. How will CIB Egypt increase financial inclusion?
Ezz Al-Arab: Egypt is still predominantly cash-driven, and CIB has spearheaded the country’s digital banking transformation to drive financial inclusion. We are Egypt’s leading mobile wallet provider and the only bank to offer voice-recognition payment service for governmental and non-governmental bills. CIB is also working with Egyptian FinTech start-ups to accelerate financial services innovation and promote cashless transactions.
GF: What are CIB Egypt’s advantages in Eastern and Southern Africa? We are also learning from the digital banking experiences of other countries, particularly Kenya, which has emerged as a renowned FinTech hub.
Egypt is still predominantly cash-driven, and CIB has spearheaded the country’s digital banking transformation to drive financial inclusion. "
Ezz Al-Arab: Africa’s banking opportunities have been amplified by political commitments to African integration, primarily the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, aggregating a USD2.5 trillion market with 1.3 billion consumers. This agreement allows countries across Africa to commercialize agriculture and move towards industrialization, driving entrepreneurs, SMEs and large corporations to banks for financial, international trade and business advisory services.
CIB’s expertise and local coverage make us the right financial partner for companies looking to grow their businesses across Africa. CIB is Egypt’s banking leader for consumers, SMEs, mid-size companies and large institutional corporations needing channels to grow Egyptian exports. Now, with Mayfair CIB and our representative offices in Ethiopia and Dubai, CIB is helping customers access some of MENA and sub-Saharan Africa’s ’s fastest growing economies.
GF: What’s next for CIB Egypt in Africa and beyond?
Ezz Al-Arab: Africa provides abundant banking opportunities and CIB Egypt is strategically focused on capitalizing on its investments in Mayfair CIB, our offices in Ethiopia and the UAE, and leveraging our leading position in Egypt to integrate business flows across the continent.