Standard Bank. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Standard Bank. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Abidjan — Standard Bank will work with its biggest shareholder, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, to capitalise on an investment drive by the Chinese bank into Ivory Coast in establishing a regional banking hub in French-speaking West Africa.

"In Ivory Coast Chinese companies and the Chinese authorities have committed over $7.5bn over the next few years to invest in infrastructure," Standard Bank CE Sim Tshabalala said.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has a 20.1% stake in Standard Bank, which is making its first foray into French-speaking West Africa.

"We’re in partnership with them [Industrial and Commercial Bank of China]) in terms of which we are in effect [part of] their Africa strategy," Tshabalala said on Monday in Abidjan, where Africa’s largest bank by assets launched a new subsidiary aimed at corporate and investment banking clients.

A post-civil-war economic boom in Ivory Coast, which makes up about 40% of the economy of the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union, has been driven by major infrastructure investments and is increasingly drawing the attention of China.

While Chinese entities bring their own financing to projects in Africa, the deals offer opportunities for Standard Bank to mobilise financing for African partners. "The Chinese always want you to contribute. So they’re not only going to give gifts. In deals, we will either get involved in club loans or syndications," Tshabalala said.

Before its Ivory Coast launch, Standard Bank already operated in 19 African markets, including Nigeria and Ghana. The new bank will serve as its hub in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, whose members use the CFA franc.

The expansion is part of Tshabalala’s plan since 2013 to sharpen the company’s Africa focus following a costly blunder by his predecessor, who unsuccessfully sought to transform the group into a global emerging markets lender.