Standard Bank’s big Middle East move

Standard Bank Group plans to open a new office in Egypt as Africa’s largest lender by assets looks to benefit from rising trade between the continent and the Middle East.

According to Rassem Zok, who leads Standard Bank’s operations across the Middle East and North Africa region, the bank will open the new representative office by the end of the year. The Johannesburg-based lender’s presence already spans 20 African markets.

The move comes as Standard Bank’s business outside of South Africa overtook its home market as the biggest driver of profits in 2023.

While headline earnings inched up 3% for the South Africa business, profits from the rest of the business soared 49%.

“We have been looking at expanding our reach toward North Africa,” Zok said in response to questions from Bloomberg.

The new office will allow “Standard Bank to capitalize on the significant emergence of the Gulf-sub Sahara Africa-Egypt corridors, and further support our clients in those corridors,” Zok said.

In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council countries have stepped up their investments in Africa as they’ve looked to diversify their own economies and prioritized areas like food security and renewable energy.

Those moves have followed a retrenchment by China, which has historically been the largest investor on the continent.

Standard Bank has had an office in the Dubai International Finance Centre for two decades and expects the new operations in Egypt to complement that presence, Zok said.