South Africa is the economic powerhouse of SSA. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with 366 listed companies, is the leading stock exchange in Africa by market capitalization.
South Africa also is the leading region in terms of number of bank products offered to customers (915648). However, outside the financial centers banking access becomes a problem for many people. Sometimes there are just too few banks per country. Other issues include poor regional financial integration or poor local infrastructure that makes getting to physical bank branches problematic. This has led to developments in mobile banking.
In the MENA region, the common theme of Arab culture and language create a common thread through diverse countries. Driven by oil wealth, the region holds a large proportion of the world’s Islamic banking assets.
In the wake of the financial crisis, interest rates were low and investors looked to emerging markets for higher returns. The market risk premium in South Africa promises high returns on successful investments, but such attractive rates imply that default risk is a real issue. Africa’s cost of credit risk of banks is a percentage point higher than the global average, and this risk premium varies significantly from country to country. This makes Africa an attractive place for emerging market investors but also leaves the continent more exposed to the financial perturbations.