Standard Chartered is a global bank that prides itself on its regional expertise in the Middle East and Africa. Its footprint in Asia, as Carmen Ling, global head of renminbi internationalization and Belt and Road at the bank, points out, gives it a unique viewpoint to support businesses looking for opportunities, finance and advice on cross-border transactions in the region, which continue to grow as the Belt and Road Initiative takes off.
The bank has branches in well-established BRI hubs in Kenya and Egypt, but its presence and reputation in some of the region’s other countries gives Standard Chartered the upper hand as the initiative spreads beyond east Africa and the Suez Canal.
In South Africa, for example, the bank arranged a financing package in local currency to support a Chinese telecoms company to build a new regional office there. In Ghana, StanChart was the sole bank in the country to support a subsidiary of China Petroleum Group, Bay Geophysical Services, the first and only oil service company to do onshore oil work there. The bank is also active in Zambia, Uganda, Nigeria and Botswana – all countries poised to benefit from BRI as the initiative gathers pace.
To take advantage of the growth in BRI-related business in Africa and the Middle East, Standard Chartered added six more people to its China desks in the region this year, bringing the total headcount to 10.
“We expanded our China desks to ensure we provide tailor-made services to our Chinese clients operating in our markets,” says Saif Malik, regional head, global banking in Africa and the Middle East. “We realized that the language barrier has always been a key issue to fully understand and service the client base, and what better way than to hire Chinese-speaking bankers into our teams?”
At the end of last year, the bank provided centralized liquidity and account management solutions for Shaanxi Construction Engineering Group, one of the largest construction and engineering companies in China, with risk management and account support in Nigeria, Cameron, Botswana, Ghana and the UAE.
The bank also supported a large Chinese power and energy company with its banking needs, which included foreign exchange, principal finance and bank guarantees in Namibia.