first bank nigeria

Nigeria and Egypt make a strong showing in this year’s Top 100 African Banks ranking.

The Banker’s Top 100 African Banks ranking for 2021 highlights the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the continent’s largest lenders, as lockdowns and a slump in commodity prices hit government and bank balance sheets alike.

The impact of Covid-19 was particularly pronounced in South Africa, where some of the world’s most stringent lockdown restrictions amplified pre-existing economic challenges to hammer the economy, which shrank by 7% in 2020. Standard Bank, which retains its position as the largest lender in both the country and the continent, was the only one of the South African big four to improve its Tier 1 capital position, with a 5.8% strengthening. FirstBank and Absa remain in second and third place for 2021, despite a 15.5% and 2.1% drop in Tier 1 capital.

Lenders in Nigeria also endured a tough year, although a recovery in oil prices towards the end of 2020 brought relief for the continent’s largest economy. Zenith Bank, the country’s largest lender, exits the continent’s top 10 for the first time, following a 5.4% decrease in its Tier 1 capital base. Of the 12 Nigerian lenders in this year's Top 100, just two banks — First Bank Nigeria and Stirling Bank — recorded an increase in Tier 1 capital for the year.

Egypt's banks occupy the top four positions of 2021’s African performance table

However, Nigerian lenders remain some of the most profitable on both the continent and the global stage, accounting for four of the continent’s 10 most profitable banks among the 25 largest African lenders. Using The Banker’s best-performing bank methodology, Zenith Bank comes in at the top of this year’s profitability table, just ahead of Guaranty Trust Bank, last year’s most profitable lender. United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Access Bank come in in fifth and sixth place, respectively. The country’s lenders make up five of the continent’s 10 best lenders for return on risk, with UBA, Guaranty and Zenith locking up the top three positions.

Even the impact of the coronavirus could not derail Egypt’s economy. The country’s gross domestic product grew by 3.6% in 2020, overtaking South Africa as the continent’s second largest economy, even as poverty remains widespread.

As rival lenders in other markets felt the heat, Egyptian lenders continue to post impressive growth in strength and assets. National Bank of Egypt, the country’s largest bank, overtakes Nedbank Group to gain fourth place in this year’s rankings, with Banque Misr and Afreximbank rising to sixth and 10th place respectively. Egyptian lenders make up six of the continent’s six fastest growing lenders, with Afreximbank and Banque Misr securing the top two spots in the growth table. Afreximbank, Commercial International Bank (CIB) and Faisal Islamic Bank occupy the top three positions in this year’s ranking for operational efficiency.

It comes as little surprise, therefore, that Egyptian lenders once again dominate in terms of overall performance. The country’s banks occupy the top four positions of 2021’s African performance table, which considers eight separate metrics including growth, leverage, soundness and return on risk.

Faisal Islamic Bank, Egypt’s eighth-largest lender, secures top position in this year’s performance rankings, ranking in the top 10 for all eight metrics and coming in first for asset quality. It comes in narrowly ahead of CIB, which topped the performance rankings last year, with Banque Misr and Afreximbank coming in in third and fourth.

Capitec Bank, South Africa’s fifth-largest lender, comes in fifth overall for the continent for performance, ranking first for soundness and leverage, and in the top 10 for four other metrics. Guaranty Trust Bank is Nigeria’s best-performing lender, with strong scores for profitability, return on risk and liquidity.


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