FILE PHOTO: A Standard Chartered bank branch in Singapore
INTERNATIONAL - Standard Chartered launched its first African online-only bank in Ivory Coast on Friday, joining a wave of lenders seeking to use new technologies to reach customers in some of the world’s most under-served markets. 

Long considered a backwater, Africa has emerged as the world’s No 2 banking market in terms of both growth and profitability. Yet there are just five branches per 100000 adults, by far the lowest rate in the world. 

To compete for customers, banks are increasingly taking advantage of Africa’s deepening mobile phone coverage. Clients of Standard Chartered’s Ivorian bank will be able to open an account in less than 15 minutes and then use an app on their mobile devices to carry out all their banking activities. 

“We have been steadily investing in expanding our footprint in Africa over the years, and this will continue to be a priority moving forward,” said Sunil Kaushal, Standard Chartered’s Regional chief executive, Africa and Middle East. “Digitising Africa remains at the heart of our business strategy for the region,” he said.