The Gabonese Strategic Investment Fund (FGIS) bought out BNP Paribas’ 47.04 percent share in the International Bank for Commerce and Industry in Gabon (BICIG) after four years of deliberation. As the majority shareholder, FGIS will now directly manage BICIG, Gabon’s third-largest bank, pending negotiations with a pan-African group. The transaction, which cost about US$50 million, according to undisclosed sources, signals the end of a direct French presence in Gabon’s banking sector.
Why It Matters
With the implementation of the West African eco monetary unit still being worked out, Gabon’s decision indicates a desire by African economies to distance themselves from French banking in an effort to become more self-sufficient. The relative financial freedom afforded by FGIS’ acquisition of the French-owned portion of BICIG is somewhat curtailed by keeping French personnel available to BICIG for technical assistance. However, this is still much greater leeway than what was previously available to Gabon, which may push the coastal West African country to seek out greater coordination with non-European partners such as China or the United States. This decision will also make Gabon and its African partners more directly responsible in preventing money laundering and managing sovereign debt.