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Access Banks’s offshore expansion opens opportunity for risk-sharing

In fulfillment of its aspirations of becoming Africa’s Gateway to the World, and in line with its vision to be the World’s Most Respected African Bank, Access Bank Plc, Nigeria’s biggest lender has in recent times embarked on strategic expansion to other African countries.

Two months ago, the bank concluded plans to buy a majority stake in the African Banking Corporation of Botswana, a month after acquiring a South African bank.

A statement from Atlas Mara said Access bank would acquire just over 78 percent of BancABC Botswana for an undisclosed cash sum of around 1.13 times book value as well as a two-year deferred payment.

Some analysts see the bank’s move as a strategic plan to counter stagflation and dollar shortages in Nigeria that have frustrated businesses, shrinking the lending market.

Uju Ogubunka, president of, Banks Customers Association of Nigeria (BCAN) said the expansion move gives the bank an opportunity to spread its risks.

“The bank should be encouraged as long as they have the capacity to expand,” Ogubunka said.

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He wondered where the bank is getting the money for the expansion saying if the bank is taking money from Nigeria to expand to other countries; it would be denying the country of funds for development.

However, he said if the bank is able to get resources from offshore then there is no harm. In terms of regulation, he believes there must be a kind of relationship between the Central Banks of the two countries.

Following the completion of all regulatory procedures, Grobank Limited has been officially renamed Access Bank South Africa Limited. The deal was finalised after Access Bank’s acquisition of controlling shares in the former Grobank Limited, South Africa.

With this new development, Access Bank South Africa Limited is positioned to deliver a robust banking operation that connects key African markets.

At an official closing ceremony in Sandton on Monday, top executives of the two banks were upbeat about new opportunities for clients, noting that the Bank will continue to support all its stakeholders while opening doors to growth opportunities both in the short and long term.

CEO of Grobank Bennie van Rooy said, “This is an extremely exciting day for the South African banking industry. Our corporate customers will now have increased access to trade finance, treasury, international payments, and loans through the wider distribution network offered by Access Bank’s presence in the key trade corridors that connect Africa to the rest of the world.

“Banking with Access Bank South Africa means greater security as well as access to more products and services through a best-in-class digital platform, and a full retail banking suite will soon be on offer,” van Rooy said.

Wigwe said: “Today’s ceremony in South Africa seals our commitment to delivering our strategic aspirations of becoming Africa’s Gateway to the World, in line with our vision to be the World’s Most Respected African Bank.

“We look forward to the many opportunities our collective experience and deep understanding of the African market brings to our valued clients, and the journey ahead being one of great promise for our institution and the continent.”

Wigwe had in a recent interview with Bloomberg discussed the Bank’s scope for expansion in Africa as a diversified retail bank, as well as its plan to provide cutting-edge digital payment solutions across the continent.

“We want to have subsidiaries across 22 countries over the next five years, with strategic plans to be present in the major trade corridors in the African continent. Building on our successful expansion into Kenya, we will also be making entries into Angola and Mozambique.”

“At the moment, Access Bank does not have a presence in the Francophone region of Africa, and we will be working to see that this is changed in the coming years. By 2023, Access Bank will have consolidated its position as Africa’s gateway to the world with about 100 million customers in Nigeria and an additional 20 million customers across our African subsidiaries,” Wigwe said.

Wigwe attributed his growth projection to the Bank’s innovative payments solution, saying that “Access Bank is set to revolutionize the payment and banking landscape in Africa. We would soon be introducing a new payment system that would allow users to enjoy a secure, seamless, and convenient service when making payments at Merchant locations without cash or card.

When launched, the system would help Access Bank’s drive towards bridging financial literacy gaps in Nigeria and indeed Africa, like the elderly or underserved individuals who cannot cope with the complexities of internet banking and mobile applications will be able to transact with ease.

From a tiny bank in 2002, Herbert Wigwe, group CEO of the bank, who took over from his close friend and business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, in 2014, has completely transformed the bank which then was ranked 65th among 89 banks operating in the country.

Access Bank Plc. is a leading full-service commercial Bank operating through a network of more than 600 branches and service outlets, spanning three continents, 12 countries, and 31 million customers.

The Bank employs 28,000 people in its operations in Nigeria and has subsidiaries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the United Kingdom (with a branch in Dubai, UAE) and representative offices in China, Lebanon and India.

Listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange since 1998, Access Bank is a diversified financial institution that combines a strong retail customer franchise and digital platform with deep corporate banking expertise and proven risk management and capital management capabilities. The Bank serves its various markets through four business segments: Retail, Business, Commercial and Corporate.

The bank has over 900,000 shareholders (including several Nigerian and International Institutional Investors) and has enjoyed what is arguably Africa’s most successful banking growth trajectory in the last twelve years.

Following its merger with Diamond Bank in March 2019, Access Bank became one of Africa’s largest retail banks by retail customer base.

In the string of expansion across the African continent – including Cameroon (operating license), Kenya (Transnational Bank), Zambia (Cavmont Bank), among others, the bank has said it intends to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) to expand its footprint to 20 countries across the continent.

Wigwe said across Africa, there was an opportunity for the bank to expand to high-potential markets, leveraging the benefits of AfCFTA. He further said AfCFTA, among other benefits, would expand intra-Africa trade and provide real opportunities for Africa.

He believes that Africa has enormous potential and there are opportunities for an African bank that is well run, understands compliance, and has the capacity to support trade and the right technology infrastructure to support payments and remittances, without taking incremental risks.

“We believe that we are best positioned to basically do all of that. Our focus is to become an aggregator in Africa and we are building a global payment gateway and providing trade finance support and correspondent banking across the continent. We are focusing on the key markets,” he said.

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