Citigroup Inc. is making a push into funding the governments of French-speaking African countries to benefit from faster economic growth in the region.
The New York-based lender plans to use its hub in Ivory Coast to win public-sector business from nations including Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Khady Dior Ndiaye, Citigroup’s chief executive officer for West and Central Africa, said in an interview. It is also targeting nine other countries where it serves corporate and investment banking clients without a physical office, she said.
“Traditionally, in those countries, we were only doing financial-institution business, but now we are looking at public-sector business as well,” Ndiaye said in an interview in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast. “Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso have very aggressive development plans and the public sector is in need of financing.”
Citigroup will rely on its staff of about 50 people in Abidjan and expand this as needed to meet demand, she said. The extension of the lender’s services come amid a thrust from others companies also seeking to expand in French-speaking West Africa territories, with Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group Ltd. eyeing Senegal after opening a branch in Ivory Coast and Morocco’s CFG Bank looking to enter either one of those two countries in 2019.
Citigroup has had a presence in Ivory Coast since 1975, with only a brief hiatus during 2010 and 2011 when it closed in the wake of post-electoral conflict. Since then, it has been working with authorities in the government and central bank to help restore the country’s financial system. Central and West Africa accounts for about 10 percent of the company’s sub- Saharan African revenues, according to the CEO.
Ivory Coast’s economy may expand 7.4 percent in 2018, according to International Monetary Fund projections, the quickest in sub-Saharan Africa after Ethiopia, while Senegal is seen growing 7 percent, Togo 4.9 percent and Congo 3.8 percent.
Most governments in Africa cannot finance their needs in education, health or security or the estimated $130-$170 billion they need to spend a year on infrastructure, according to the African Development Bank.
While Citigroup has no immediate plans to expand into retail banking in the region or anywhere else in sub-Saharan Africa, it will look to replicate a recent successful partnership with a mobile-phone network in Ivory Coast to collect money outside Abidjan.
“The mobile technology was something put in place to address the needs of individuals — now we want to push it further to address the needs of our corporate clients,” Ndiaye said. Source : Bloomberg