Africa has witnessed a rapid expansion of cross-border banking, led by banking groups based in Africa that are spurring financial and economic integration and transforming the continent’s financial landscape. These institutions are occupying a space created by the retreat of several global bank groups from Africa in the wake of the crisis. African banks headquartered from Morocco to South Africa have each established business operations in at least 10 countries. Ecobank, headquartered in Togo—is present in more than 30 countries on the continent.
The banks have facilitated many positive changes but these groups also pose new challenges for African regulators and supervisors, with potential implications for economic and financial stability. Many of these challenges have been felt worldwide, particularly in Europe, necessitating a strengthening of banking regulation and a tightening of oversight. It falls to African financial sector regulators and supervisors to rapidly address these new challenges. This complicated set of challenges was the topic of a conference on Cross-Border Banking and Regulatory Reforms: Implications for Africa from International Experience, held in Mauritius on February 1-2. The conference brought together more than 80 officials from Africa and Europe—including 12 African central bank governors—and bank chief executives, along with an IMF team led by Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
In opening remarks, the Managing Director spoke of the key need to ensure that supervision of bank holding companies takes place on a consolidated basis. “You face a delicate balancing act,” Lagarde said. “You need to enhance regulation and supervision but, in implementing global standards, you also must take into account local circumstances. Fortunately, you are not alone. The IMF and other bodies recognize the challenges you face and are committed to drawing on our global experience to assist you.”
It is clear that these issues are not unique to Africa. In fact, many of the challenges—ranging from data-sharing to cross-border bank resolution—are common to advanced and emerging market economies. Therefore, an important feature of the Mauritius conference was the participation of European supervisors who are grappling with the same challenges. The group was led by Stefan Ingves, Governor of the Swedish Central Bank and Chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. In his speech on cross-border bank resolution, Ingves spoke to the issues that supervisors in the Nordic and Baltic countries have faced, particularly during and after the global financial crisis.
The IMF has played an important role in providing technical expertise to assist the efforts to develop effective cross-border regulation and supervision, including through the Fund’s capacity development work.