By Lucky Fiakpa
The pan-African bank, EcobankÂ Â Transnational Incorporated, ETI,Â may well be coming to an end of its geographical expansion which has seen the group opening offices in 27 countries across the continent.
This much was contained in the address delivered by Mande Sidibe, the groupâ€™s chairman during the bankâ€™s last annual general meeting held in Burkina Faso a fortnight ago.
The chairman said that as the expansion programme comes to an end, the group will now focus increasingly on improving controls, customer service, processes, efficiency, productivity and using technology to leverage its unparalleled presence across Africa.
But Sidibe did not say if the groupâ€™s intensions of opening offices in Asia and other continents would be accomplished before drawing the line on the groupâ€™s geographical expansion.
Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, ETI, has an ambition to become a truly pan-African bank. Within 23 years of opening shop in Lome, Togo, it has grown to a full-service regional banking group with over 500 branches and offices and over 8,000 employees across 25 countries in west, central, east and southern Africa.
Even now, the group has concluded plans to commence operations in seven additional countries before the end of the year. This would bring to 32, the total number of countries the bank operates. The expansion strategy of the Ecobank Group is driven by its desire to weave an efficient and effective financial services web across the length and breadth of the continent and create opportunities for improved business relations among Africans and with other peoples in other countries.
ETIâ€™s expansion plan includes the opening of new subsidiaries and branches in other countries in the Central African region as well as representative offices and international banking facilities in the major financial centres that have substantial trading and transaction links with Africa, which include London, Paris, Dubai and Beijing.
But this tall ambition requires money to actualize it. With no deep vault of its own to prosecute this dream, the group came to the capital market last year with a cross-border hybrid offer with which it hopes to raise $2.5 billion ((about N295 billion) )across Africa.
The group however ended up raising $506 million to shore up the groupâ€™s total shareholdersâ€™ funds after providing for expenses.
â€œOur intention is not just to build Africaâ€™s biggest bank. We are in the process of building the continentâ€™s best financial services group in terms of processes, in terms of products and services, in terms of technology and in terms of people. And by the time we are done, we would have raised a world-class bank fully owned and managed by Africans,â€ Mr. Offong Ambah, the managing director and chief executive of Ecobank Nigeria stated then.