The last time Access Bank, Nigeria’s’ biggest lender, talked about international expansion, it had it sights set on Southern Africa.
Now, however, those ambitions have metamorphosed into a pan-African one.
The financial institution looks to expand across the continent, eventually, after establishing a holding company.
8 Countries, Then 22
Access Bank has buried flag post in 8 African countries where it looks to expand to in search for the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
With an eye for high-potential markets, the lender already operates in 12 countries of the continent, like Gambia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The current interest markets for Victoria Island, Lagos-headquartered bank are Algeria, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Namibia, Angola, Senegal and Egypt.
The firm will leverage in its United Kingdom-based unit to anchor its growth to expand representatives offices in nations like China, India and Lebanon.
In October 2020, Access Bank received an approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enter definitive agreements to strengthen its grip on the Southern African nation.
The bank planned to use its Mozambican presence as leverage in the region. It is unclear if the intentions have completely changed, but if they quite have, it could mean that the bank has spotted greener grass.
At a point in African trade and economics, pan-African organizations (or African multinationals as they can be called) and the historic free trade agreement intersect. Access Bank trying to expand across Africa on the back of the AfCFTA is somehow a confirmation of that intersection.
The AfCFTA Rush
Ever since January 1st 2020 when Africa’s historic free trade agreement, the fanfare for the commencement of the deal was quiet, yet significant. Ghana has become the official first country in the continent to take advantage of the initiative.
Back in January 4th (2021), the West African country put together an event to mark its first export under the framework of the AfCFTA. Not only did it set the pace for other countries to follow, but got some support for the initiative from its French allies.
54 out of 55 African countries have put in on the AfCFTA paper, barring Eritrea, but only 35 of them have been able to get the instruments needed to ratify the deal to the bloc’s secretariat.
Access Bank trying to court the free trade deal early adds to its validation and potential. Nevertheless, Nigeria—where the lender is based—has submitted its ratification instrument in December 2019. Although, the country still lacks the infrastructure for the benefits of the deal to be realized.
Wamkele Mene, the secretary-general of the AfCFTA, said recently: “Africa is now ready under new rules and new preferences because we want to build a single integrated market on the continent”.
If its expansion ambitions come to life, Access Bank could join the pan-African league of financial institutions, where Standard Chartered and UBA reside.
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