French bank Société Générale exiting Ghana market

French bank Société Générale has announced its decision to withdraw from the Ghanaian market after just twenty years of operation, alongside exits from Tunisia and Cameroon.

Sources close to the bank have revealed that Société Générale has engaged investment bank Lazard to explore potential buyers for its operations in Ghana, Cameroon, and Tunisia, with Absa Bank reportedly considering the acquisition of these subsidiaries.

This move follows Société Générale’s recent sale of its Moroccan operations to Saham Group, as well as divestments in several African countries last year, including Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

The Société Générale group, with a longstanding presence in Africa, aims to concentrate its resources on markets where it can establish itself as a leading bank, aligning with the group’s overall strategy, as stated on its website on April 12, 2024.

European Banks exiting Africa

Société Générale’s planned exit from Ghana and other African countries mirrors similar actions taken by other European banks. Notable names include Barclays and Standard Chartered, with the latter withdrawing from some countries while maintaining operations in Ghana and a few other African countries.

Additionally, newer entrants like Atlas Mara have also left the continent, while Credit Suisse is retaining only its South African operation. French bank Groupe BPCE exited its non-core businesses in several African countries as far back as 2018.

Possible reasons

The departure of European banks from Africa, including Société Générale, is primarily attributed to the high cost-to-income ratio. These banks are facing reduced returns on their investments in Africa compared to decades ago. The banking landscape has evolved, requiring significant investments in IT infrastructure and compliance to meet regulatory requirements set by central banks. Many African central banks have also increased minimum capital requirements over time. Furthermore, increased competition in the sector combined with stagnant economic growth in many African countries has further squeezed profit margins.

The exit of European and other non-African banks suggests that African banks, particularly from South Africa and Nigeria, may emerge as dominant players in the continent’s banking sector.

 

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