Ecobank deal expands AMEX to 12 new African countries

American Express and Ecobank have reached an agreement to significantly expand the acceptance of American Express cards in 21 countries in Africa.

Through the partnership, announced during the African Development Bank Annual Meeting in Nairobi, American Express card members will be able to use their cards in 12 new African countries: Burundi, Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mala Victoria, Mali, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Togo.

Additionally, the number of merchants accepting American Express will increase in nine additional countries that already accept American Express: Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania Asia and Uganda. Acceptance services will be rolled out in these countries over the next 12 months. Ecobank will also provide ATM acceptance services for American Express cards in all 35 countries in which it operates in Africa (except Cape Verde).

“We are delighted to welcome American Express to our network, which reinforces our commitment to delivering innovative payment solutions to our customers in Africa,” said Jeremy Awori, Group CEO of Ecobank. The agreement will benefit American Express card members by providing them with greater choice and will help merchants grow their businesses. It also highlights the scalability of Ecobank’s unparalleled borderless banking ecosystem and network across Africa.

“Ecobank is committed to providing innovative and easy-to-use financial solutions to its retail customers through its unified banking platform across Africa.”

Mohammed Badi, President of Global Network Services at American Express, commented: “This agreement with Ecobank is an important milestone for American Express’ acceptance in Africa as it will expand our presence in sub-Saharan Africa from the current 30 countries. to 42 countries. With the support of EcoBank, we look forward to providing merchants in these countries with access to higher-spending American Express card members in Africa and around the world.

Ecobank's partnership with American Express will strengthen its card business, which builds on similarly structured partnerships with Visa, Mastercard and China UnionPay.

Good news for merchants and small and medium-sized enterprises

The agreement will also enable merchants, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to attract business from American Express’ new customer base of consumer, business and corporate card members in Africa and around the world.

SME lending has proven to be not only crucial for economic empowerment but also profitable for banks.

“We want to grow our consumer and SME markets, and the card business is part of that, both in terms of issuing cards and accepting card payments,” Awori said.

“All of our businesses grew strongly last year, but the strongest performance was in the commercial or SME business”

In November, Ecobank signed a $200 million agreement with the African Guarantee Fund to support small and medium-sized enterprises. “This deal will help bring risk-sharing facilities that will enable us to provide loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, the gender sector as well as agriculture,” he added.

Growth prospects

In April, Ecobank announced its audited results for 2023. The group's net income also exceeded the $2 billion mark for the first time since 2015.

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