Abidjan — Standard Bank is seeking a banking licence in Senegal after opening in Ivory Coast, as the lender expands in West Africa’s French-speaking countries.

Africa’s largest lender, which opened in the world’s biggest cocoa producer on Monday, will focus on corporate and investment banking clients after obtaining the licence in 2016, Sola David-Borha, CEO for Africa, said in an interview in Abidjan.

Standard Bank sees Ivory Coast is an entry point for Francophone West Africa and will aim to have all the necessary permits for Senegal in 12-18 months, she said.

Ivory Coast, the biggest economy among the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, expanded at 7.8% in 2017 after an average of 9% per year since 2012, boosted by public spending.

After growth of 6.8% in 2017, Senegal will maintain an expansion rate of about 7% until 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Following clients

"Francophone West Africa is increasingly becoming important as a vector of growth on the African continent," Standard Bank group CEO Sim Tshabalala said in the same interview. "We’re going to follow our clients. It’s mainly going to be driven by our clients’ needs and our clients’ demands and we’ll go to where our clients take us."

Standard Bank, which operates in 20 African countries, also wants to obtain a licence for Ethiopia where it has a representative office, David-Borha said. African countries outside SA contributed 28% to Standard Bank’s net revenue in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.