World’s Best Banks 2024—Africa | Global Finance Magazine

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Leading banks deliver record returns.

Banks in Africa have recently been operating in challenging environments, owing to economic turmoil. The stress factor has been particularly elevated in big economies. Amid the harsh environment, African banks’ top leadership and management have demonstrated shrewdness and prowess. Instead of crumbling, banks remain resilient. Some are even posting record-breaking profits.

Local currency crises in Egypt and Nigeria have caused havoc. The ripple effects for banks have heightened risks to asset quality. In South Africa, sluggishness in critical sectors like mining, energy, logistics, construction, and trade saw economic growth nosedive to a mere 0.6% in 2023, down from 1.9% in 2022.

South Africa is a case in point. A March PwC analysis shows major banks posted a combined headline earnings growth of 13.8% to $5.9 billion in 2023, compared to $5.2 billion in 2022. Combined return on equity (ROE) hit 17.6% from 17.1%.

“We continue to observe the quality of leadership teams and the ability of management teams to position their businesses to effectively navigate the complexities of macroeconomic events and a local economy under stress,” states Francois Prinsloo, PwC’s Africa Banking and Capital Markets leader.

Standard Bank, our regional winner, led the pack with a 27% increase in headline earnings at $2.3 billion from $1.7 billion, while ROE rose to 18.8% from 16.3%.

Zenith Bank defied Nigeria’s economic mess to post triple-digit profit growth. In the third quarter of last year, it posted a 149% increase to $368.4 million in profit before tax from $146.3 million for the same period in 2022.

Without a doubt, leadership has been the conspicuous standout against ferocious tides. Faced with turbulent waters, the top brass have risen to the occasion, sometimes being forced to make tough decisions. The strategic decisions have been diverse, cutting across the pursuit of organic growth for homegrown banks to aggressive mergers and acquisitions (M&A) ambitions for Pan-African lenders.

In Côte d’Ivoire, Bridge Bank is positioning itself as a distinctive niche bank, investing $20 million to build muscle and control the local market. Pan-African lender Access Bank, the winner in Ghana, is pushing to conquer the continent through acquisitions. Its latest foray is in Kenya, where it is taking control of the National Bank of Kenya (NBK) at an estimated $100 million price tag.

Managers have also demonstrated the need to be pragmatic. By exiting markets where performance is below par and focusing on markets with solid positioning, global banks like Societe Generale and Standard Chartered have shown that if it cannot be fixed, it can be discarded.

Apart from making tough decisions, the focus on core business has also been notable. Management has deliberately mobilized deposits and pushed loans to grow the balance sheet, increasing customer numbers and investing in technology, digitalization and innovation.

Banks have also invested in new products and services while remaining alert to risk management. And they have been keen to attract and retain quality talent. More importantly, operations are aligned to new realities, including climate change. This has made sustainable, green and climate-smart financing integral to lending.

Best Banks in Africa
Algeria Banque Nationale d’Algerie
Angola Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI)
Benin Ecobank
Botswana First National Bank
Burkina Faso UBA
Cameroon Societe Generale Cameroun
Cape Verde Banco Comercial do Atlantico (BCA)
Côte d’Ivoire Bridge Bank Group
DR Congo Rawbank
Djibouti CAC International Bank
Egypt CIB Egypt
Equatorial Guinea BANGE
Ethiopia Awash Bank
Gambia GTBank
Ghana Access Bank
Guinea VISTA Bank
Kenya Co-operative Bank
Madagascar Societe Generale Madagasikara
Malawi Standard Bank
Mali Banque Atlantique
Mauritius AfrAsia Bank
Morocco Attijariwafa
Mozambique Millennium bim
Namibia First National Bank
Nigeria Zenith Bank
Rwanda Bank of Kigali
Senegal Societe Generale Senegal
Sierra Leone UBA
South Africa Standard Bank
Sudan Omdurman National Bank
Tanzania CRDB Bank
Togo Ecobank
Tunisia Amen Bank
Uganda Centenary Bank
Zambia Zanaco
Zimbabwe CBZ Bank

Regional Standout

“Outstanding” perfectly describes Standard Bank, Africa’s regional overall Best Bank and winner in its home market of South Africa as well as Malawi. Standard Bank has strategically expanded its reach across the continent, and today its Africa Regions franchise is a force driving profitability.

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In 2023, the franchise contributed 42% to group headline earnings, up from 36% the previous year. Headline earnings stood at $960.3 million, up 49%, with ROE at 28.1%, compared to 21% in 2022. The top eight contributors were Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Building a strategy around regional presence has been instrumental for Standard Bank, which boasts $160.7 billion in assets and 18.8 million clients across 19 markets. This strategy has helped maintain a healthy balance of performance even when economic crises have battered some key markets.

Performance in the bank’s home market is an indicator. Given the strain in the operating environment and stiff competition, South Africa contributed 38% of the group’s earnings last year, down from 48% in 2022. Headline earnings grew by a paltry 3% to $881.6 million, from $855.2 million in 2022. ROE declined to 14.6% from 15.2%. The South African market, however, has been a highflier in digital adoption. In 2023, digital retail clients increased by 8%, with $2.1 billion distributed via the bank’s digital wallet platform alone.

The positive Africa franchise growth gives Standard Bank the impetus to venture into North Africa, the only African region in which it has no current presence. The bank’s plans, coupled with ongoing investments in convenient digital channels and sustainable finance, aim to position it as a driver of Africa’s growth in line with its “2025 Ambition” blueprint.

A clear pointer is Malawi, where Standard Bank wins our Best Bank award for the third year running. By deploying a robust digital strategy, the bank essentially controls 25.4% of the loan market share and 24.1% of deposits. Notably, 91% of transactions are carried out on digital channels, with the bank disbursing $41 million in loans digitally.

Multicountry Winners

Societe Generale (SocGen) is convinced that Africa’s harmonious development is key for the world. For this reason, the bank is determined to continue supporting Africa’s sustainable development, with a critical focus on small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), infrastructure financing, agribusiness, renewable energies and financial inclusion.

While its continued presence is indisputable in Africa, where the bank’s ties go back over 100 years, the bank also opts for pragmatism. Political instability, economic upheavals and regulatory complications have forced a critical review of its operations on the continent.

Last year, SocGen announced its exit from six markets: Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania and Chad. It says it has also “launched a strategic review” of its stake in the Tunisian market.

SocGen remains resolute that the exits are necessary to enable it to “concentrate its resources on markets where it can position itself among the leading banks in synergy with the group’s other businesses.” Some 11 markets offer these prospects. They include Cameroon, Madagascar and Senegal, all three in which the bank emerged as our Best Bank winner.

In Cameroon, the bank is our winner for the sixth year running. The bank is implementing strategies to cement its market dominance, opening new branches and increasing its presence on digital platforms while guaranteeing the security of systems, data and transactions. With an average 15% market share for loans and deposits, it posted $49.3 million in profits in 2023 with a 23.8% ROE.

Madagascar is another low-hanging fruit for SocGen. The banking industry is vastly underdeveloped, with less than 10% of the population possessing a deposit account. Despite this, the bank commands 24.3% of the market share in loans and 22.5% of deposits, with more than $1 billion in assets.

In Senegal, SocGen is reveling in the aversion of a full-blown political crisis that early this year threatened the country’s status as one of Africa’s stable democracies. The bank boasts 260,000 clients and has been a key oil and gas industry financier. It is also a key partner of SMEs, particularly in the trade, transport and agriculture sectors.

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Ecobank, another multicountry winner, is positioning itself as the ultimate bridge to foster intra-African trade and investments under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. To tap the opportunities, the bank, with a presence in 35 markets, has established its Single Market Trade Hub, MyTradeHub, and partnered with the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System. In March this year, it signed a $250 million senior unsecured bridge-to-bond loan facility, building stronger liquidity buffers.

The winner in Benin, Ecobank is unrivaled in the corporate and investment banking market segment, boasting $422.1 million in deposits and $315.2 million in loans. The bank also deploys leading-edge technology, including the March launch of Prêt Xpress, a mobile microloan service accessible through a mobile wallet, targeting more than two million customers.

The Best Bank in Togo as well, Ecobank has thrust competition aside to maintain a tight grip on the market. The bank, whose assets in the nine-month period to September 2023 stood at $992.3 million, saw year-on-year profit before taxes increase by 22% to $20.2 million.

UBA, our winner in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone, believes the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a critical bedrock for development. In February, the bank was a key backer and the official sponsor of the ECOWAS Mining and Petroleum Forum.

Ironically, Burkina Faso has joined with Mali and Niger to form a separate alliance and exited the bloc, to which it contributed about 8% of GDP. The country, together with Niger, also intends to leave the West African Economic and Monetary Union, whose members use the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro.

These developments are enormous threats to UBA. The bank has been building a strategy around cross-border payments, remittances and trade finance in the country. All are interlinked with membership to the two economic and monetary groupings. Despite the worsening political risks, UBA in Burkina Faso is determined to soldier on.

The narrative is different in Sierra Leone, where UBA is also our winner. The bank, which prides itself on a solid customer base of 400,000, posted $12 million in profits, with assets hitting $128.7 million. In January, Mohamed Alhajie Samoura was appointed CEO to steer the next growth phase.

West Africa

The banking industry in West Africa is experiencing a drastic shift. At the heart of the disruptions are homegrown Pan-African banks on an acquisition spree. Vista Group and Coris Bank have made strategic acquisitions, transforming the landscape in the highly competitive region.

Banco Comercial do Atlantico (BCA), Global Finance’s Best Bank in Cape Verde, is gearing up for ownership change. Caixa Geral de Depositos, the state-owned Portuguese bank, has agreed to offload its 59.8% share in BCA to Bahrain-based iibGroup. Meanwhile, BCA posted $16.8 million in profits.

Bridge Bank is our winner as Best Bank in Côte d’Ivoire for the fourth year in a row. The bank is unrivaled in the micro, small, and midsize enterprise (MSME) market; and to tighten its grip, it plans to allocate 35% of its credit portfolio to MSMEs by 2026.

BANGE, our winner in Equatorial Guinea, is feeling the adverse impacts of an economy projected to remain in recession for the foreseeable future. While key metrics, including a surge in nonperforming loans, are blinking red, the bank remains steadfast in fulfilling its customers’ financial needs.

GTBank is our winner as Best Bank in Gambia. The bank is not only using its extensive branch network to build partnerships with public bodies to collect revenue, but is also deploying digital channels to increase retail-market penetration.

The Ghanaian economy is showing signs of stabilization after a turbulent period. For Access Bank, the country’s winner, the impacts are already being felt, with net profits surging by 47.1% in the third quarter to $34.4 million, from $23.3 million in the same period of 2022.

In Guinea, VISTA Bank takes home the award. The bank is not concealing its unbridled ambitions to become a force in West Africa driven by inorganic growth. The bank is mobilizing resources from partners like development-finance institutions Proparco and Shelter Afrique to support SMEs and affordable housing and expand in the country.

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Banque Atlantique wins in Mali. The bank is investing heavily in technology and digital transformation to cement its dominance of the retail market and drive financial inclusion.

Global Finance’s Best Bank in Nigeria, Zenith Bank, is on a roll with record profits. In March, the bank announced that Adaora Umeoji will assume the CEO role on June 1. She becomes the first female chief since the bank’s inception.

Southern Africa

Banco Angolano de Investimentos (BAI) wins as the Best Bank in Angola for the fourth consecutive year. With $5 billion in assets, comprehensive geographical coverage, and user-friendly online banking services through BAI Directo, the bank commands a 20% market share.

In Botswana, First National Bank tops the class. The bank has a tight grip on the market, with $1.6 billion in deposits, $1.1 billion in loans, $102 million in profits and an ROE of 32% for the year ended June 30.

The Best Bank in Mauritius, AfrAsia Bank, has built a winning strategy around private, corporate, institutional and international banking. For the six months ended December 2023, it posted $76.1 million in profits.

Millennium Bim remains unrivaled in Mozambique, where it is our winner. With about two million customers, the bank commands a 22.5% market share in deposits and 15.9% in loans.

In Namibia, the First National Bank is the country’s crown jewel. The bank posted $78.7 million in profits and an ROE of 26.2%, with a customer service score of more than 80%.

Zanaco is the Best Bank in Zambia. Over the past five years, the bank has facilitated over $300 million in funding for corporates and SMEs and is implementing its 2025 plans.

In December, CBZ Bank, our winner in Zimbabwe, saw its chairman retire and its CEO appointed as its acting chairman as part of its measures to pursue sustained growth in a market where it commands a 34% share in assets and 29% in deposits.

North Africa

Global Finance’s Best Bank in Algeria is Banque Nationale d’Algerie. The state-owned lender, which posted $440.3 million in net profits, is battling for a bigger Islamic banking market with four new products. The bank is pushing growth through regional expansion.

Yet again, the winner in its country, CIB Egypt has reenergized its SME, affluent and mass-market segments to consolidate its leadership. It boasts 83,000 SME clients, whose deposits totaled $1.9 billion.

Attijariwafa, the Best Bank in Morocco, is an indisputable powerhouse. The bank has 12 million customers. Through its universal banking model, it has an asset base of $65.6 billion and has extended loans totaling $39 billion.

Sudan is in tatters due to the ravages of war. Omdurman National Bank, the country’s winner, has not been spared. The bank has been forced to migrate most services online and through mobile banking.

Though Tunisia is trying to navigate a brutal economic crisis, this has not stopped Best Bank winner Amen Bank from pursuing its aggressive 2022-2026 strategic plan, which is anchored on attracting new clients and mobilizing deposits.

East Africa

CAC International Bank, which carries the crown in Djibouti, posted 38% profits, to $2.3 million in 2023, and a 10% ROE. Besides being a digital banking and trade finance leader, the bank is big in the card business.

Awash Bank is our winner in Ethiopia. As the country’s leading private bank, it has been aggressively expanding, opening 150 new branches. Commanding a 20% market share in assets, 18% in deposits and loans, and 16% in customer base, the bank posted $172.5 million in profits.

This year’s winner for Kenya, Co-operative Bank, is recording phenomenal growth riding on agency banking. With a network of 17,000 agents and a solid digital footprint, it facilitates 91% of transactions via digital channels.

In Tanzania, CRDB Bank once more comes away with the award. The bank ushered in a new era of sustainable investment by issuing a pioneering $300 million Kijani bond for green financing.

Centenary Bank, the winner in Uganda, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2023. With 2.4 million customers, the bank is pursuing growth through regional expansion.

Central Africa

Bank of Kigali remains best in Rwanda for the fourth year in a row. The bank boasts over 30% market share across key metrics and prioritizes financial inclusion as a core tenet of its growth.

Rawbank wins in the DR Congo. With $4.9 billion in assets, $234.8 million in profits and 39% ROE, the bank is pushing ahead with digital transformation after recording a 40% increase in uptake last year.

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