Citigroup's Pandit Sees Africa as New Growth Driver

Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said Africa is a major new driver of growth as consumer spending slows in the U.S.

“Africa has a major role to play in this new world,” Pandit told reporters in Johannesburg today. “The most important thing we are seeing is an exponential rise in trade between emerging markets.”

Pandit is paying his first business visit to Africa this week as global banks seek deals in emerging markets to compensate for slower growth in developed economies. After South Africa, the continent’s largest economy, he will visit Nigeria, the second biggest. JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon made a similar visit last month.

While Citigroup will focus on providing corporate and investment banking services, the bank is also looking at opportunities to service Africa’s growing middle class, Pandit said. The lender, which has 200 million customer accounts, has no plans to make acquisitions in Africa, and hasn’t identified any specific countries for expansion.

“Expansion in Africa isn’t as easy as it sounds,” Pandit said. “Things don’t happen that much faster” than they used to, he said.

Citigroup and JPMorgan, both based in New York, have previously announced their intention to expand in Africa, where growth is forecast to outstrip that of developed nations. With trade growing between the continent and Asia, banks are also looking for opportunities to boost earnings by financing trade deals and facilitating mergers and acquisitions.

Dimon said he was “incredibly impressed” by the opportunities in South Africa and the rest of the continent after a visit that also included meeting Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Renee Bonorchis in Johannesburg at rbonorchis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

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