FILE PHOTO: The logo of South Africa's Standard Bank at its Cape Town headquarters
JOHANNESBURG - Standard Bank Group expects its investment into French-speaking West African countries to start taking off once its Ivory Coast business becomes established and Senegal becomes operational.

“The real growth acceleration will come after 2020,” Joel Toure, the chief executive of Standard Bank’s Ivory Coast unit, said in an interview in Abidjan, the economic hub of the world's biggest cocoa producer. “This zone was one of the missing links of the group in Africa.”

Africa's largest lender is relying more and more on its operations outside of South Africa, where it's known as Stanbic Bank, to bolster earnings amid slumping economic growth in its main home market.

The Johannesburg-based company started an office in Ivory Coast in April last year, with its eye on Senegal next, as it seeks to add to operations across 17 African countries, mainly in corporate and investment banking.

Regulatory approval to open a branch in Senegal using its Ivorian licence probably won't come before the end of next year, said Toure.

Stanbic expects to grow with multinational corporates, especially Chinese firms and state-owned companies, expanding in the region, said Toure, who was appointed chief executive in June, taking over from Herve Boyer, who is transitioning to a new role as director of regional development for the West African Economic and Monetary Union. The company is well positioned to handle transactions within the West African region from its Abidjan base, he added.

The eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union is largely driven by the Ivorian economy, which is expected to expand by 7.5percent in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund. Ivory Coast is preparing to hold presidential elections in 2020 amid increasing political tension in an economy that's been one of Africa's top performers.

Stanbic faces intensifying competition in the region from international players, such as French telecommunications firm, Orange, which has been granted a banking licence through its partnership with NSIA Banque.  

BLOOMBERG