Africa News blog

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U.S. banks push harder in Africa

March 7, 2011

NIGERIA/Two of the world’s biggest banks told the first day of the Reuters Africa Investment Summit that they planned to strengthen their presence in the continent as their own customers see their businesses here grow.

Citi’s Africa CEO, Naveed Riaz, said it may expand into three new African countries over the next 18 months to strengthen its corporate and investment banking business. He didn’t say which, but interestingly a return for Citi to Angola didn’t appear to be among the top targets despite its oil wealth.

Rival JP Morgan Chase said it was targeting representative offices in Ghana and Kenya this year and a full branch in Nigeria by next year. The bank’s sub-Saharan Africa CEO, John Coulter, said its business in Nigeria was already good but needed to be deepened.

Plenty of others see the opportunity in Africa’s giant too, as highlighted by the head of the Nigerian unit of South Africa’s Standard Bank. Chris Newson, head of Stanbic IBTC, told the summit he saw 20-25 percent loan growth over the next three to five years as demand for consumer and infrastructure finance increases.

Is the Africa story being pushed too hard? Not according to Washington-based private equity firm Emerging Capital Partners, which has raised more than $1.8 billion for African investments over the past 10 years.

“I can assure you there’s no bubble in Africa at the moment. Every guy in the elevator’s not pitching a deal here yet,” co-Chief Executive Hurley Doddy told Reuters in Lagos. “A fast-growing African economy can suck up a lot of capital unlike Asia or China. There are maybe too many private equity dollars chasing deals there, which is just not the case here.”

We’ll hear more during the week.

Picture: Lagos central business district. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

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