Lagos - Pan-African banking group Ecobank Transnational has opened its first branch in Ethiopia, establishing a foothold in the fast-growing East African economy and extending its African network to 35 countries.
Economic growth in Africa's second most populous country is running at more than 9 percent and the government could open up the state-dominated banking sector to new entrants before too long.
Ecobank chief executive Thierry Tanoh said that the new branch will give the lender a head start in marketing its pan-African services to overseas businesses and other banks in the region before possible banking deregulation.
“Ethiopia has emerged as one of Africa's most exciting new markets and is forecast to be the world's third-fastest-growing economy between 2011 and 2015, behind only China and India,” Tanoh said, adding that Ecobank aims to profit from increasing trade across different African nations as the continent steps up its development and infrastructure.
Tanoh said that such trade had grown to 12 percent of total trade on the continent last year, from less than 10 percent five years ago.
Shares in the bank slipped 1.36 percent to 13.85 naira on Friday, but the stock has gained 24 percent since the start of the year.
Ecobank, which has been expanding rapidly across Africa in recent years, said it obtained the licence for a representative office in July and that the new operations will start with an initial staff of three people.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with 160 million people to Ethiopia's 80 million, contributes more than 40 percent of Ecobank's group revenue. - Reuters