October 30, 2015 / 12:48 PM / 3 years ago

South Africa's Standard Bank opens office in Ethiopia

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 30 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Standard Bank has opened an office in Ethiopia, it said on Friday, to gain a foothold in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies where foreign lenders are not allowed to own banks.

Ethiopia is a lucrative market with a population of about 90 million people and which Standard Bank - Africa’s largest by assets with a presence in 20 countries - said has averaged economic growth of more than 10 percent for the past five years.

The bank launched its office in Africa’s second most populous nation on Thursday following requests from its clients.

“We’re thinking of more than just a representative office obviously, but honestly that isn’t a decision not just made by us, but the regulatory environment would need to change first,” said Taitu Wondwosen, who heads the new office.

“We tend to follow our clients and many have expressed interest in the growing Ethiopian market,” she said.

The office, based in the capital Addis Ababa, will be administered by Standard Bank’s head office in South Africa, the bank said in a statement.

Other banking institutions with representative offices in Addis Ababa include the European Investment Bank, Germany’s Commerzbank, pan-African lender Ecobank , Export-Import Bank of India, National Bank of Egypt and Bank of Africa.

Ethiopia has a tight grip on its financial sector, dominated by state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is trying to expand its modest industrial base and has been investing heavily in new roads, railways and hydro-electric power plants to draw in investors, although foreigners are banned from owning telecoms, banking and retail companies. (Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by James Macharia)

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