The win-win strategy is reflected through cooperation between China's biggest commercial bank—the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)—and South Africa's Standard Bank Group (SBG). ICBC purchased 20 percent of SBG for US$5.5 billion in early 2008. Now when an ICBC client in China expands its business in South Africa, the bank sends the client to SBG, and SBG directs South African companies doing business in China to ICBC.
|Liu Yagan, Chief Representative of ICBC Africa. [Maverick Chen / China.org.cn]|
As the biggest bank of South Africa and Africa as a whole, SBG has more than 1,500 branches throughout the continent. ICBC has over 4 million corporate customers, 490 of which are among China's top 500 companies.
Africa is a great potential market for banks, because about 50 percent of Africans don't yet have a bank accounts, said Liu Yagan, Chief Representative of ICBC Africa, in an interview with Beijing Review in Johannesburg. "We are not afraid of competition. Competition only makes us stronger," he said.
By cooperating with SBG, ICBC can successfully enter the mainstream market in Africa, and gain a competitive edge. "ICBC now faces a strategic opportunity to expand its business in Africa," Liu said.
To SBG, ICBC had adequate capital, which was of special importance for a bank, said Jacko Maree, the SBG's CEO. Maree also pointed out some of SBG's actual business profits were from Chinese enterprises investing in Africa.
Since the purchase, SBG shares have brought ICBC a profit of over 2 billion rand (US$299.85 million) every year, and over half of the profits are reinvested in SBG for further development, Liu said.
"The rate of return from the investment is much higher than our normal loan rate, which stands at 3-4 percent," Liu said.
Through SBG, ICBC had granted loans totaling US$8 billion by the end of June 2011. ICBC's successful investment in SBG has helped dispel misperceptions about Chinese enterprises in Africa. "We come here for investment, not for grabbing local resources," Liu said.
Their cooperation also opens markets for both sides. ICBC and SBG agreed in August that ICBC will purchase 80 percent of the Standard Bank Argentina. Argentina and Africa don't have a big trade volume. But China currently is Argentina's second biggest trade partner. Plus, there are many Chinese enterprises in this South American nation. If the purchase gets approved, ICBC will be the first Chinese bank to enter Argentina and it will own 103 branches in the country.
While making profits, ICBC attaches great importance to the interests of its clients and employees as well as the communities where it operates, he said.
In China, ICBC pays great attention to the government's environmental protection policies. It prefers green loans, and has dropped all projects that might bring high-energy consumption and high pollution. In South Africa, ICBC and SBG also follow environmental protection principles when granting loans.
SBG has over 50,000 employees in Africa, and over 50 percent of its managerial staff is from the local black population. ICBC and SBG have jointly created many job opportunities throughout Africa. They have also offered preferential loans for small and medium-sized enterprises to improve their financial conditions.
As the biggest shareholder of SBG, ICBC supports SBG to spend millions of dollars sponsoring young artists, singers, actors and actresses, while donating to AIDS-patients and orphans every year.