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Financial services 10 May 2022

Africa poised for rapid private business formation and growth

The thinking behind Standard Bank’s recently established Business & Commercial Client division

The configuration of Standard Bank’s Business & Commercial Clients (BCC) division heralds the formation of a practice dedicated to leveraging the power of small, medium, and larger businesses in sustaining and expand inclusive domestic business growth across Africa.

Successful emerging market growth stories are characterised by the proliferation and expansion of small and medium businesses. And even in developed economies, the SMME sector defines and sustains the kind of economic expansion and broad-based employment on which long term prosperity and stability is built.

Standard Bank’s commitment to driving Africa’s growth has contributed to the evolution of a highly developed African business support capability. The creation of a dedicated, purpose-led business and commercial client practice seeks to refine and focus Standard Bank’s highly developed African business building abilities - at a time at which business formation across the continent is leading and sustaining the next phase of African growth.

Physically on the ground with experienced and capable workforces recruited and grown in-country, Standard Bank’s BCC division supports full-service business banking operations in 15 African economies. This developed banking platform is directly supporting the emergence of domestic and regional businesses across the continent.

The fact that Standard Bank has, for a long time, also been present in the development of the broader policy, legislative, and infrastructure environments that give rise to independent business formation in Africa’s emerging and frontier economies, means BCC is ideally placed to lead the next wave of business growth on the continent.

Growing small businesses into family enterprises or larger importer/exporter or wholesale distributor propositions, or eventually even into regional private and listed corporates, will sustain inclusive, privately-owned economic growth in Africa for generations to come. This will increase employment and broaden economic inclusion, creating the conditions for general prosperity and long term social and political stability.

In Africa, micro, small, and even medium-sized businesses face an array of unique risks and challenges. In this environment, Standard Bank’s presence, balance sheet and local insight and ability is critical in managing the endemic risks that often prevent smaller businesses growing into larger and more stable operations.

More broadly, as African businesses grow regionally and globally, and foreign businesses and investors look to Africa, Standard Bank’s reliable, present, and capable counter-party banking structure on the continent will become increasingly important for Africa’s emerging business segment. Standard Bank’s now well-functioning working relationship with equity partner ICBC unites Africa and the world’s largest banks in a trade and finance capability ecosystem that, effectively, spans the globe.

Despite the very real challenges that the continent continues to face, the learning of the recent past for Standard Bank is one of profound resilience and huge progress in Africa. Even in often difficult circumstances, the fact of Africa’s astounding rise – and growth – is real, and the role of technology in this rise cannot be over-emphasized. For small and less well-capitalised businesses in particular, the sustained decrease in the cost of banking afforded by technology is a game changer. Technology, today, is the difference between survival and failure for businesses.

Standard Bank’s BCC division is resolutely committed to expanding the suite of both simple and complex technologies that are making ever more businesses possible in Africa.

BCC has been assembled on the view that Africa is entering an exciting expansion phase, characterised by rapid private business formation and growth. As such, BCC will harness and focus Standard Bank’s considerable business experience in tandem with its established African and global capital, knowledge and capability ecosystems to nurture and grow African businesses domestically, regionally, and globally.

Bill Blackie is Chief Executive of Standard Bank’s Business & Commercial Clients division.