When oil was discovered in the early 1990s, Equatorial Guinea’s fortunes suddenly changed. The influx of foreign investment powered an economic boom, with the subsequent Horizon 2020 development plan enabling vast infrastructure projects to be planned and delivered. With the arrival of the African Cup of Nations in January 2012 – the continent’s premier football competition – Equatorial Guinea signalled its arrival on the international stage.
Alongside this development came a demand for financial services. BGFI Bank, originally known as Banque Gabonaise et Française Internationale, set up its headquarters in Equatorial Guinea in 2001, and opened its first branch five years later.
Since then, the firm has embraced new opportunities to expand and overcome challenges along the way – not least operating in the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa. Having enjoyed success, they have now set an ambitious programme of development to further build on their growth.
Central to the firm’s strategy in Equatorial Guinea is their five-year plan, which coupled with the ambitions of the country’s President Obiang have enabled both business and social developments to be delivered in tandem, as Christophe Mounguengui, General Director of the firm, explains: “BGFI Bank came to Equatorial Guinea thanks to the will of two people: President Obiang and President Bongo of Gabon. Today BGFI Bank is a sub-regional bank that has its headquarters in Gabon and that initially wanted to locate itself in most CEMAC countries.”
“The development plan established in Equatorial Guinea by President Obiang is a very ambitious initiative that we liked and attracted us,” he continues. “We went from Gabon to establish ourselves abroad, and wherever we settle we have a target to hit: to be a leader in our business. But being a leader is not necessarily being the first; we do not seek to be first, we seek to be leaders. Our prime concern is to be an African bank above all, before being totally international.”
With operations across a host of African countries – including Congo, Benin, Cameroon and Ivory Coast – BGFI Bank’s experiences across the continent have enabled its offering to the emerging markets of Equatorial Guinea to be tailor made to the country’s demands.
|BGFI Bank doesn’t go to a country to be an observer, but instead to be a major player. We come to finance the economy, to finance companies; we come to accompany the development.
General Director of BGFI Bank Equatorial Guinea
An international branch in Paris and the adoption of France’s AFAQ Afnor standards have helped to further cement its credentials as a serious financial player amongst the business community. BGFI International has been involved with financing the cocoa harvest in Ghana and the cotton harvest in Benin, but the firm is also looking to encourage banking amongst the wider Equatorial Guinea society, in a region where less than 10 per cent of the population can easily use banking services.
“When you come to BGFI Bank we offer you the service quality that you would like to see in Africa and that is being done elsewhere,” says Mr Mounguengui.
“Wherever we are established, each bank has to be known for the quality of its services. Today BGFI Bank Equatorial Guinea is leading the drive for quality, in its processes and procedures, organising its work so that when someone from Europe, the USA, or Asia needs a reference bank, it will be BGFI Bank.”
A new credit policy, an innovative array of products and an expanded network of ATM locations have all helped the company to grow its market share in Equatorial Guinea. It currently employs 81 people, with two offices in Malabo and one in Bata. New services such as remote online banking and improving the bank’s relationship with the major oil players in the country have opened new avenues of opportunity. A new marketing and sales team has helped drive the company’s market share and the firm is also keen to further expand its operations throughout Africa.
“From now until 2015, we said that we wished to have maybe 15 to 18 locations in Africa,” says Mr Mounguengui. “For us, it is something progressive but within the framework. It is investing in the countries that have potential; it is investing in the areas that have a potential.”
And that potential means offering services to a wide-ranging set of clients – from major companies and small and medium-sized enterprises, to high net-worth individuals. And as Mr Mounguengui explains, BGFI Bank’s priorities in Equatorial Guinea are intrinsically linked with ensuring the country’s wider development continues.
“We settle where there is a need for us,” he says. “BGFI Bank doesn’t go to a country to be an observer, but instead to be a major player. We come to finance the economy, to finance companies; we come to accompany the development.”