Africa banking has been built largely on the framework of the European banks that established in the colonies in the 19th century. As a result, the largest banks are found mostly in the former British colonies of South Africa and Nigeria accounting for almost one half of the largest 25, and of France, in Algeria and Morocco, accounting for the next quarter.

African banks are small in world terms having less than 1% of total world bank capital compared to almost one half for Asia, a quarter for Europe and one fifth for North America. However, African banks perform better than almost all other regions in terms of profits. They make double the amount expected relative to size, contributing 2% of global profits and deliver a 20% return on capital – the third highest level in the world.

Of the five largest banks in Africa, four are the major South African players – Standard Bank Group, FirstRand, ABSA Group and Nedbank Group, with only one other bank, Egypt’s National Bank, coming in at #2. Most of the other major banks come from Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria. In comparison however, the largest bank, Standard Bank, only manages to place 152nd in the Top 1000 World Banks.

Counting by country, in the top 80 African banks by assets, are the following:

Ivory Coast-1
South Africa-7

To understand which are the biggest banks in Africa from the table above, it is clear that although South Africa only has 7 out of the 80 largest, it accounts for nearly 40% of total assets, and with nearly half a trillion dollars in assets has double the total for the same number of Egyptian banks, four times the total of Nigeria, which has double its number of banks in the top 80, and nearly ten times the assets of the total in Kenya.

A complete list of banks in Africa with assets in excess of $400 million follows:

List of largest African Banks in the world

In conclusion, African banks can be roughly split into two systems – sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. The Top 80 listing is dominated by the sub-Saharan ‘big four’ South African financial giants: Standard Bank, ABSA, Nedbank and FirstRand Group. The new generation of Nigerian banks, led by Access Bank and First Bank, are emerging as dynamic players in regional markets. In North Africa, the Algerian, Egyptian and Moroccan banks are emerging from a period of difficult conditions but are expected to catch up with the better-than-average performance history of the rest of the continent.

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