NAIROBI Jan 15 Kenya's leading bank by assets,
KCB, will continue its operations in South Sudan
despite weeks of fighting that has underscored the risks
companies face expanding into one of Africa's last barely-tapped
KCB has a network of 22 branches in the country which gained
independence from Sudan to the north in 2011, and they generated
9 percent of the group's 15.2 billion shillings ($176.44
million) pretax profit for the first nine months of last year.
"Most of the bank branches are operational ... with only
three remaining closed in Bor, Bentiu and Malakal," said Charity
Muya-Ngaruiya, chair of the board of KCB South Sudan,
referring to three towns that have seen the worst violence.
The scope for banks to expand into South Sudan could be huge
as there is no banking at all in most rural areas of the country
of 11 million people.
The recent conflict has left the world's newest state at
risk of sliding into civil war.
It erupted in mid-December, tearing open ethnic fault lines
and may have killed as many as 10,000 people in the desperately
poor nation according to one independent estimate, while the
United Nations has said that well over 1,000 people have died.
Peace talks between the warring factions are making slow
progress in neighbouring Ethiopia. Even so Muya-Ngaruiya said
KCB was encouraged by the negotiations between the government
and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar.
"We are confident that the process will result in a
settlement that will allow us to resume our investment
programme, and help us contribute in the development of the
country," she said in a statement released on Wednesday.
($1 = 86.1500 Kenyan shillings)
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Richard Lough and