Kenyan lender,  Equity Bank has concluded plans to expand to 10 countries in Africa over the next five years. The expansion will cost Sh200 billion ($2.2 billion).

The bank has already entered into loan deals for Sh36 billion ($400 million). Yesterday, it also created additional shares worth Sh20 billion. The rest will be raised through a rights issue or an IPO,  as it seeks to extend its operations. Equity Bank says its expansion plans will be achieved through acquisitions and new investments.

“For acquisition we will give shares in Equity Bank instead of cash […],” said James Mwangi, chief executive of the company. “In some countries it is difficult to start from scratch because they are too big so we will enter by acquiring a medium-tier bank and upscale it.”

Equity Bank already operates in four countries within East Africa, but its new plan will venture west to Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon. It will also open up branches in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique in the South.

The lender, however, intends to start with East Africa, the region where it has consolidated its brand. The five-year plan will start with Ethiopia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo over the next two years before it expands further to the rest of Africa. Although in 2012 Ethiopia locked out private investors from its financial sector to boost home-grown investment, Equity Banks believes the fast growing economy would finally join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and will be forced to open up its market.

Its parent company, Equity Group Holdings Limited, has a customer base exceeding nine million within the region, making it the largest commercial bank by number of customers.

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