East Africa: recession hits bank growth.

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MAURITIUS BANKING GIANTS - Mauritius Commercial Bank and the State Bank of Mauritius - continue to dominate the top of our East Africa rankings. The Mauritius Commercial Bank has grown its asset base to $5.12bn from $3.52bn. Its rival, the State Bank of Mauritius, has assets now worth $2.60bn, up from $1.78bn.

Elsewhere, state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia has pushed into number two position in our rankings with an increased capital base of $473m, up from $173m. Kenya Commercial Bank emerges top of the league of Kenya's 43 banks. It has eased up the list increasing its capital base to $301m compared to $167m.

Mauritius's banking sector remains vulnerable to the economic slowdown, warns Moody's. Analysts say while Mauritian banks remain robust and well supported by strong capital levels and profitability, the global downturn will impact the island's key tourism and manufacturing sectors. The recession is expected to dent the growth potential of the banking sector, with a forecast of 6.5% in 2009 compared to 12.9% in 2008, say analysts.

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"The country's two biggest banks, the Mauritius Commercial Bank and the State Bank of Mauritius, are well capitalised, with Capital Adequacy Ratios above the Basel II norm of 8% and the domestic requirement of 10%. They have solid fundamentals, good liquidity conditions and remain under the close scrutiny of the central bank," says the Mauritius Bankers Association.

Kenyan newcomer Equity Bank leaps 14 places up the table to fifth and is now ranked the 60th biggest bank in the continent. For decades, Kenya's banking sector was dominated by multinationals like Barclays and Standard Chartered. Now, home-grown lenders like Equity have grabbed market share, achieving success by offering banking services to the poor.

Equity (which won our African Business of the Year Award in July) began life as a small building society in central Kenya in 1984. It switched from only providing mortgages to focus on microfinance in 1994. Recently, Equity started an insurance business. It now also shares custodial services at the Nairobi bourse and has recruited 10 investment bankers for its Equity Investment Bank.

It is taking its winning formula abroad. Last year, it invested in Uganda's Microfinance Limited and turned it into a bank. It is now turning its eye towards South Sudan, where it is launching a bank soon.

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"We shall continue to grow the bank despite the prevailing global...

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