East Africa is one of the most dynamic banking regions, with banks reaching across borders into neighbouring countries while continuing to push industry frontiers as they vie with each other and telecommunications firms including Safaricom and Airtel to dominate mobile banking and financial services.
Most of the action is in the competitive Kenyan market, investment gateway to the region, which contributes 10 banks to the regional top 20 ranking.
Across the region, banks have been increasing their profits, on the one hand boosted both by inflation and by rising interest rates and on the other hand held back by declines in the Kenyan shilling and Ethiopian birr compared to the US dollar, and to a lesser extent the Ugandan and Tanzanian shillings.
Equity Bank of Kenya again tops the table with the group holding Tier 1 capital of $1.5bn, assets of $11.7bn and profits of $364m.
Second is the KCB group. Both banks are consolidated at group level, where their results include assets outside their principal country. KCB’s in-country Kenya Commercial Bank would be by itself the country’s biggest with $718m in capital.
Ethiopia, whose economy is fast liberalising, has four banks in the regional top 20, led again by state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia with Tier 1 capital of $929m and profits of $304m, based on the same figures as used in last year’s ranking.
Awash International Bank increased its Tier 1 capital to $299m but slips from last year’s #13 to #14 in the region. Dashen Bank boosted Tier 1 capital from $192m to $282m to climb from #17 to #15.
The picture is likely to keep changing as Ethiopia progressively opens its banking system to foreign competition in line with a policy approved by the Council of Ministers in September 2022. There are talks of future acquisitions by African and international banks, and Kenya’s Safaricom received a mobile money licence in May 2023.
Ethiopia’s Bank of Abyssinia and state-owned Development Bank of Ethiopia drop out of the regional rankings, as many of their regional rivals have boosted Tier 1 capital.
Uganda has three banks in the regional ranking, up from two last year. Standard Chartered Bank Uganda is ranked #19, with Tier 1 capital of $219m and net profits of $27m.
Stanbic Bank Uganda climbed to #11 as Tier 1 capital rose to $367m with profits of $99m. Uganda’s second largest bank, Centenary Rural Development Bank (with Tier 1 capital of $251m) displaces DFCU Bank in the regional top 20. Centenary (#16 in the region) focuses on education, environment health, financial literacy and the social mission of the Catholic Church. In March 2023 it announced the first cross-border expansion of a Ugandan bank after it won a banking licence in Malawi.
Tanzania has two banks in the regional ranking, and Rwanda has one, both unchanged from last year. One sign of the regional strength in banking is the soaring baseline as the Tier 1 capital of the bank ranked #20 is $210m, up from $159m in 2022.