From its creation in 1983 until 2002, the BANK OF AFRICA network grew steadily: it gradually established a presence in 7 countries; its activities now extended beyond commercial banking; and its increased power illustrated these developments. In its quest for all-out expansion, the Group seized an exceptional opportunity: its first presence in English-speaking Africa.

This opportunity arose in Kenya. Banque Indosuez, which was in the process of merging with Crédit Agricole, had long had a subsidiary there, a product of its colonial past. Based in Nairobi and Mombasa, the bank is small but well managed by a quality team: it has very large international corporate clients, a good reputation and a healthy loan portfolio. 

It was a very risky gamble; the Kenyan banking sector is one of the most efficient and competitive – with almost 45 banks – in Africa, and our Group was unknown in the region. But the temptation was too good to resist: discussions began in 2002 with Indosuez and lasted two long years. This exciting adventure will leave some unforgettable memories.

During the negotiations, BOA first had to be accepted as an acceptable partner. This was achieved fairly quickly, thanks to a network that was now well established, a good image and an original shareholding structure. Discussions on the price of the transaction were more delicate: Indosuez raised the stakes. Negotiations, conducted in the utmost secrecy in Paris and Nairobi, were difficult and sometimes came close to breaking down. It took all the experience of the negotiators and lawyers representing BOA to find the arguments for the price reductions requested. Despite everything, Indosuez, which was above all sensitive to the buyer’s reputation and the commitments he would make, appreciated BOA’s methods and objectives, and an agreement was finally reached.

In the meantime, BOA has had to find an original legal arrangement to meet the requirements of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) for the shareholding of commercial banks. Thanks to the participation of BANK OF AFRICA of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Madagascar alongside the Group’s holding companies, the application for approval is progressing. The trust between the holding company and its subsidiaries, eased by the transparency of the decisions taken and everyone’s support for the development programmes, has once again enabled this new project to succeed. The subsequent arrival of the FMO and the Aureos Investment Fund will consolidate this initial « round table ».

The final preparatory work, carried out in the open at last, enabled us to meet the teams in place. They had to be convinced of the quality of the project. It was going to shake up previous habits – with a bank focused in future on Kenyan businesses, product innovation and the creation of new branches – and would include strong growth forecasts. In exchange, everyone is offered a place in the new entity and real opportunities for future development. The frankness of the pitch and the positive feedback from the Group outweighed the handicap of the network’s French-speaking origins, and the unreserved commitment of all parties was quickly secured. After a final legal hiccup over the adoption of our name, the BANK OF AFRICA-KENYA was approved on 30 June 2004.

BOA is extremely pleased to be entering Kenya. With a population of already 35 million and a powerful economy that is the jewel in the crown of East Africa, the country offers unhoped-for prospects. But the pleasure of this success is immediately accompanied by an awareness of the challenges ahead. In particular, two major projects need to be completed as a matter of urgency if we are to brighten up the horizon. The first is internal: the Group needs to build an organisation in Nairobi that is faithful to its philosophy but adapted to the working methods and commercial approaches that are relevant in Kenya, to master the new regulatory context, To keep the former customers, to obtain the support of the local teams for the objectives of developing and diversifying the clients base, and to ensure that the new subsidiary is properly integrated into the network. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we are making progress on these objectives, but progress is slow. The management changes introduced in 2008 and the massive support of shareholders – with capital already quintupled in 2010 – will speed up the adaptation process and give the bank a new dimension. The second is external. While the entity gradually took its place on the Kenyan market, the Group succeeded in establishing itself in two neighbouring countries: Uganda in 2006 and Tanzania in 2007. BOA’s presence in the three countries of the East African Community (EAC) has changed the situation and breathed new life into BOA-KENYA.

Building on this strengthened base, the bank will gradually consolidate its position among its local peers and become the Group’s hub in the AEC. Thanks to the experience and efficiency of its teams and the support of the whole Group, the bank is now present in corporate and household finance as well as in the national financial markets, and its audience is growing. Admittedly, fluctuations in the Kenyan shilling do not always allow foreign shareholders to reap the rewards of growth and profits. But all the parties involved are confident: BOA-KENYA creation, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary on 30 June, was an act of faith in the future of the continent, the coming boom in trade between its major regions and the construction of interconnected regional banking groups.

Twenty years on, these hopes are more alive than ever and there is no doubt that BOA-KENYA will confidently and successfully make its contribution.

We wish you a happy anniversary

Paul Derreumaux

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