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African countries south of the Sahara are poised to enjoy a surge in growth in their banking systems during this decade, according to new research from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The three main drivers of this development will be generally very high rates of economic growth, financial deepening to fulfil huge unmet needs for basic financial services and new technologies to provide them—particularly over mobile phones.

In the report the EIU traced out two scenarios for the growth of the sector. In the conservative scenario, driven exclusively by economic expansion, they project that the industry in 16 key African economies will boost its financial assets by 178% to US$980bn by 2020. In the more likely scenario, driven by both economic growth and financial deepening, they foresee assets expanding by 248% to US$1.37trn at the end of the decade.

The boom will vary markedly across the continent, however. Banking is likely to enjoy its most rapid expansion in Angola, increasing assets at least fivefold by 2020, as that country experiences a surge in petroleum production and builds up an industry long hampered by civil war and economic malaise. Banks in a number of other economies—including Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda—will expand assets at least threefold over the same period.

Slower-growing markets will include South Africa, which is the financial powerhouse of the continent but will expand its own banking sector only modestly by 2020. Botswana and Namibia, two other economies with well-developed banking systems, are also slated to expand banking assets at rates below the regional average.

In most regards the region is trailing the rest of the world in developing the banking systems that are vital for stronger economic development and growth. However, in some key aspects Sub-Saharan Africa is leading other regions in ways that will allow it to rapidly catch up, or even leapfrog forward, in the next decade and beyond. The continent's industry is a leader in mobile banking and other innovative approaches to reaching new customers. Most of its markets are also unusually open among emerging markets to foreign banks and microfinance firms. More than anything else, it offers huge unmet financial needs in a world largely marked by excessive debt and leverage.

Banking in Sub-Saharan Africa to 2020: Promising frontiers is available at www.store.eiu.com
The executive summary is available free of charge at www.eiu.com/africanbanking

For more information contact:

Sophie Kriefman
Grayling on behalf of The Economist Intelligence Unit
Sophie.Kriefman@Grayling.com; +44 (0) 207 592 7924

Angelina Hunt
Grayling on behalf of The Economist Intelligence Unit
Angelina.Hunt@Grayling.com, +44 (0)20 7592 7932

About the Economist Intelligence Unit
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the world's leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. It provides accurate and impartial intelligence for companies, government agencies, financial institutions and academic organisations around the globe, inspiring business leaders to act with confidence since 1946. EIU products include its flagship Country Reports service, providing political and economic analysis for 195 countries, and a portfolio of subscription-based data and forecasting services. The company also undertakes bespoke research and analysis projects on individual markets and business sectors. More information is available at www.eiu.com.

The EIU is headquartered in London, UK, with offices in more than 40 cities and a network of some 650 country experts and analysts worldwide. It operates independently as the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs.

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