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Ecobank: Africa’s banking champion leaps forward

Ecobank has become the most widespread bank in Africa. Its chief executive, Arnold Ekpe, says the focus is now on revenues and efficiency. But with major acquisitions recently announced, Ecobank’s ambitions for growth have not let up. Dominic O’Neill speaks to the bank’s leadership.

The final frontier: Africa for brave investors

THE YOUTHFUL CHAMPION of Africa’s emerging banking sector, Ecobank, leaps again. In late July, the Togo-based firm agreed to acquire Nigeria’s Oceanic Bank. At group level, the deal could increase Ecobank’s pan-African assets and branch network by around 50%. Even within Nigeria, Ecobank’s domestic operations now look likely to rise from the middle to the top tier of the country’s domestic banks in terms of its asset book and branch network.

In Ghana, another of Ecobank’s biggest and oldest operations, there is a similar development. A few days before the Oceanic deal came to light, Ecobank Ghana announced a potential merger with Accra-based Trust Bank. The deal could make Ecobank the biggest bank by assets in Ghana, an economy expected to grow at around 10% this year.

Ecobank has already almost tripled its asset book and doubled the number of countries in which it operates in the past five years. Even before the latest deals, group assets already totalled $11.8 billion in mid-2011.

Ecobank already has a presence in 35 countries, 32 in Africa. Even before the Oceanic deal, with around 750 branches – from Senegal to Zimbabwe, and from Kenya to Congo – Ecobank is by far the continent’s most geographically widespread bank.

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