Since 2011, in the aftermath of the post-election crisis, Côte d’Ivoire has been in a phase of economic recovery, with an average annual GDP growth rate of 9.28% over the period 2012-16.
The Ivorian banking sector – the most important in the UEMOA zone – is growing rapidly, driven by the emergence of the middle class, public investment programmes and the return of private investors.
The sector was composed of 27 banks at the end of 2016, a year in which Standard Bank (which trades as Stanbic Bank) received a banking licence from the authorities. Also in that year Banque de l’Union de Côte d’Ivoire – a subsidiary of Banque de Dé veloppement du Mali – launched activities. In September 2017 Banque d’Abidjan – a subsidiary of Banque de Dakar – entered, bringing the total number of banks in the market to 28. In addition, Banque Régionale des Marchés announced in November 2017 that it plans to enter the Ivorian market soon.
Between December 31, 2015 and December 31, 2016, total loans and deposits increased by 20% to CFA6.884trn (€10.3bn) and CFA8.587trn (€12.9bn), respectively. As of the end of June 2017, total loans and deposits had risen by 13.2% and 14.1% compared to June 2016, to CFA6.995trn (€10.5bn) and CFA8.541trn (€12.8bn), respectively.
The sector is highly concentrated. Of the 28 players (not including Banque Régionale des Marchés, Stanbic Bank and Banque d’Abidjan), eight banks held 78.2% of total loans and 78.1% of total deposits at the end of June 2017.
However, competition is still intense. The banks run aggressive commercial strategies in order to gain market share. They also develop their branch networks to be close to customers.
Société Générale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire is the market leader by some margin, with 16.14% and 17.21% of total loans and total deposits, respectively, followed by four other leading banks, namely Ecobank CI, NSIA Banque CI, Banque Atlantique and Société Ivoirienne de Banque, with market shares at levels of around 10% each.
The sector is profitable, but its weaknesses include insufficient equity, an increased level of non-performing loans and a high concentration of risks, recommending a strengthening of supervision. In this context, the Central Bank of West African States has initiated reforms with a view to the transposition of the Basel II and Basel III standards into the regulatory framework.
In Côte d’Ivoire, and also the UEMOA zone generally, prudential standards are generally not well respected by the banks. Indeed, even though most local lenders do not meet the minimum regulatory requirements, the governments often intervene to protect the banking system. The idea behind this approach is to avoid bankruptcies, preserve jobs and, ultimately, safeguard a vital part of the respective country’s economy.
The Ivorian banking sector is strongly represented on the Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières, with six of the country’s banks among the 12 listed on the exchange. This can be explained by the fact that Ivorian banks have strong momentum, and therefore need additional funds to sustain their business activity while at the same time complying with the new prudential regulations.
In the medium and short term the Ivorian banking sector should continue to prosper. It has tremendous growth potential due to the improving economic environment and a banking penetration rate of just 18.28%. However, the intensification of competition will place downward pressure on lending rates. The development of banks’ loan activity will therefore require a reinforcement of equity and risk management. Thus, the new prudential regulations that came into force from January 1, 2018 will help the sector to meet these challenges.
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