The financial results of East Africa’s biggest banks have recovered from the impact of Covid-19 in line with those on the rest of the continent.
According to the Central Bank of Kenya, the combined pre-tax profits of Kenyan banks jumped 72.7% to $1.6bn in 2021 as a result of the lifting of pandemic-associated lockdown measures. Yet despite Nairobi’s reputation as a banking centre, East Africa’s biggest bank – Equity Bank Group – is ranked just 24th across Africa as a whole with $1.6bn in capital (see Africa’s Top 100 Banks in 2022 for the continental ranking). KCB moves up ahead of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, which sees its capital fall from $1.1bn to $929m.
Next comes Co-operative Bank of Kenya, which secures third places with $739m in capital, up from $650m last year, followed by Diamond Trust Bank Kenya in fourth. Two Tanzanian financial institutions, Microfinance Bank and CRDB Bank, are ranked fifth and seventh but are the country’s only entries in our regional table or indeed in the continental Top 100, leaving both it and neighbouring Uganda rather underrepresented in our rankings.
Uganda has two banks in the East African Top 20 but only one of these, Stanbic Bank Uganda, makes it into the Top 100, with its $259m enough to secure 98th position.
Key indicator of weakness
One key indicator of the weakness of the Eastern African banking sector is the fact that the size of capital needed to secure the final position in our regional Top 20 is the lowest of all the other regions at $159m.
At $22bn, Commercial Bank of Ethiopia has by far the biggest assets of any bank in our East Africa regional table, nearly double those of Equity Bank Group, yet this scale is not borne out in the size of its other key indicators. It is likely that the bank will have to change its operating model considerably as foreign competitors enter the Ethiopian market.
Ethiopia improves performance
However, the Ethiopian banking sector has improved its performance over the past year in comparison with their other Eastern African counterparts, with six Ethiopian banks featuring in our 2022 regional table in comparison with just four last year.
At the same time, the total capital of Ethiopian banks included in our Top 100 table has declined from $1.4bn last year to $1.2bn in this year’s survey, reflecting a fall in the capital of all Eastern African banks in the Top 100 from $8.5bn in 2021 to $6.7bn this year.
For Kenyan banks at least, more rapid bank growth could come from the resumption of their expansion into other markets. Several had already moved into the rest of Eastern Africa, including eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, in the years before the pandemic, but a combination of the emerging AfCFTA and the opening up of the Ethiopian banking sector is likely to inject more urgency in the cross-border expansion of Equity Bank and KCB Bank Kenya among others.
The regional Top 20
The Top 100 Banks survey ranks the banks according to their Tier 1 capital. This consists of: capital + reserves + retained earnings + minority interests. These are published in local currencies and then converted into US dollars at the exchange rates at the year-end date in the results (or on 31 December 2021), so changing FX rates can affect the ranking.
We collect the data from Bankers’ Almanac, Moody’s Analytics BankFocus and the in-house research of African Business, excluding some banks where data is old or unreliable. The table below lists the Top 20 banks in the East African region along with their positions in the continental ranking.