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IFC-Financial Times Event Marks Opportunities for African Banks with High Standards


IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Financial Times today brought together key financial sector executives to discuss the business incentives for financial institutions in Africa to integrate social, environmental, and corporate governance objectives into their strategies, helping them better manage risks and create new opportunities for growth. The goal was to build awareness around sustainable banking products and encourage banks in the region to submit applications for the upcoming 2008 FT Sustainable Banking Awards.

At a joint IFC-Financial Times dinner in Lagos, senior IFC officials made remarks and representatives from 37 major banks across Africa discussed how they can make sustainability a greater focus of their operations.

“Offering innovative, sustainable financial products is an important way that banks can develop strong brand value and build new business lines,” said Georgina Baker, IFC Director for Short Term Finance, Global Financial Markets. “Integrating social and environmental goals into financial management creates value and opportunity for clients, shareholders, and the poor.”

This year’s FT Sustainable Banking Awards will focus on the “bottom of the economic pyramid,” which is the 4 billion lower-income people worldwide who represent a $5 trillion market but, for the most part, have no access to financial services.

Sustainable banking is good business. Of 120 commercial bank clients from 43 emerging markets that IFC surveyed in 2005, nearly 40 percent said that focusing on sustainability has improved their brand value and reputation. Some 48 percent cited better access to international capital, while 35 percent developed new business lines targeted to sustainability. Also, greater transparency and improvements in organization and management can be advantages when a bank is looking to expand into other markets or acquire other banks.

IFC recently conducted a survey of governance practices in Nigerian banks and presented highlights at the dinner. The results were compared against other emerging markets, best practices, and international standards. The survey showed that Nigeria’s banking sector has some strong corporate governance fundamentals in place, but only a marginal lead compared to other emerging markets. An increasing body of research shows that private and public companies benefit from adopting best practices in corporate governance.

“Increased transparency and heightened corporate governance practices improve the access that banks have to capital, attract premium valuations, offer financing on better terms, and ultimately improve performance,” said James Scriven, IFC Director of Global Financial Markets Operations for Africa and Latin America. “This is particularly important for banks in emerging markets that are looking to expand into other markets.”

IFC and the Financial Times launched the Sustainable Banking Awards in 2006 to encourage innovation in sustainability. The awards recognize banks that have shown leadership and innovation in integrating social, environmental, and corporate governance objectives into their operations.

The 2008 FT Sustainable Banking Awards

Applications are being accepted in the following five categories: Sustainable Bank of the Year, Sustainable Deal of the Year, Award for Banking at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Sustainable Investor of the Year, and Emerging Markets Sustainable Bank of the Year.

Each category will have a shortlist of five finalists—except Emerging Markets Sustainable Bank of the Year, where the winner will be chosen from among four banks that are awarded prizes for regional leadership. The regions are Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East/Africa.

The deadline for entries is February 29, 2008. Entry forms can be obtained at


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