UniCredit is celebrating its 45th anniversary of its presence in South Africa. In 1972, UniCredit opened its representative office in Johannesburg. Since then, the bank has expanded the scale and scope of its activities to reflect both the growing importance of the continent to its home market customers, and the international expansion of African corporations, particularly those headquartered in South Africa. Whilst South Africa is still commanding the bulk of the trade between UniCredit's home markets and Africa, it's become kind of a springboard into southern as well as West and East Africa, due to its comparatively good infrastructure, and deep-rooted institutions, including financial, law and auditing. This bodes well for accessing growing markets in sub-Saharan Africa, whose diversity is characterized by its 3,000 ethnic groups, 2,000 languages and its huge geographical dimensions, which can also explain its considerable differences in political, tax and regulatory environments.
How UniCredit is supporting clients on their African journey
Let's take an example, while South Africa and Nigeria are the biggest markets economically in Africa, for example, it is almost impossible to compare the two, whether politically, economically or culturally. Given that trade with sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of South Africa and to some extent Nigeria, is still low, and inter-African trade is in its infancy, there is a lack of certainty and consistency within countries in some cases. This is sometimes difficult to understand for European corporations that are accustomed to home markets with highly developed trade, customs and tax regulations. As many countries are facing important growth, companies are willing to invest in Africa, more than ever, especially in both Southern and East Africa. Therefore, UniCredit supports clients in their trading activities in Africa in a variety of ways, from closely integrated relationships to sophisticated trade finance solutions.
Christian Nägele, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Office of UniCredit in Johannesburg.
We place a lot of emphasis on understanding the challenges in each market in which we support our clients, scrutinising public bodies and the political appetite for reform, spending time with trade bodies and at the Italian, German and Austrian, embassies to maintain on-the-ground insights, and share this intelligence with clients to help inform their investment strategy