KCB Group #ticker:KCB is aiming to be the first local lender to start operations in neighbouring Ethiopia as the country opens up to foreign investment in the banking sector.
The bank, which opened a representative office in Addis Ababa four years ago, said Wednesday its senior officials accompanied President Uhuru Kenyatta during his recent two-day Kenya-Ethiopia trade and investment forum in Addis Ababa where the entry plans were firmed up.
On Wednesday, KCB Group chief executive Joshua Oigara told an investor briefing the lender is banking on the speedy reform process to open up the financial services sector.
KCB chief financial officer Lawrence Kimathi said the lender would seek to be among the first Kenyan lenders to set up base there to tap the immense opportunities if approvals are given.
“It’s a restricted market but with the talks of last week, we are hoping within the next year something will happen,” Mr Kimathi told Business Daily on the sidelines of the investor briefing. “They might allow Kenyan banks to get in there and work with local banks.”
KCB earlier last year said it was preparing to enter the market of 100 million people through a partnership with an Ethiopian bank or opening a fully-fledged subsidiary in the country, which currently has no foreign bank.
KCB operates regional subsidiaries in Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Ethiopia’s population, which is the second largest in Africa after Nigeria, is seen as an attractive prospect for Kenyan banks. The country has consistently registered robust economic growth, averaging 10 per cent in the past five years and the new premier’s reforms look set to strengthen investor sentiment.
The country’s financial services industry is, however, one of the least developed in the region and less than 15 per cent of its 100 million people have access to a bank account.