“It’s fair to say that we’ll be using the Ivory Coast office as a launch pad into the rest of the region. Francophone West Africa is less well-known to South Africans but it cannot be ignored due to the economic potential,” Greg Goeller, executive for client coverage Africa at Standard Bank’s Corporate and Investment Banking unit, said in a statement.
“The region has all the components to benefit from the next global mining and infrastructure boom, which in turn will lead to economic growth in other sectors as well. Our clients are increasing presence and exposure to West Francophone Africa and we plan to follow them.”
The bank, which is Africa’s largest lender, opened its Ivory Coast office in the capital city of Abidjan last year to service its 145 clients with operations in Francophone Africa.
Its clients’ sectorial operations range from oil and gas mining, infrastructure, power and energy to fast moving consumer goods.
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Ivory Coast’s membership in the West African Economic and Monetary Union will also be used at a strategic advantage for Standard Bank. The union includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.
“The story of Francophone Africa is really the story of the rediscovery of the region’s mineral wealth following years of political instability and conflict,” Goeller explained.
“Ivory Coast is the perfect example of how the economic growth potential of countries in Francophone Africa has overtaken their internal political challenges.”
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Standard Bank additionally plans to expand its focus to include nations in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community, which include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
These two monetary unions reportedly have combined populations of 148 million people, and a cumulative nominal gross domestic product of 167 billion dollars.
Goeller added that the nations were at an advantage as their currency, the CFA franc, is guaranteed by the French treasury, and both the currencies used in the two monetary unions, the West and Central African CFA francs, are pegged to the euro.
“That gives investors a lot more stability from a currency risk point of view. While language can be somewhat of a hindrance, there is almost never a situation where there isn’t at least one person in the room that is fully bilingual. Doing business in these countries is a lot easier than many people think but it’s also getting easier every day,” said Goeller.