Equity Group has acquired 91.93 percent stake in Rwanda’s Cogebanque, subsequently leading to a merger with Equity Bank Rwanda, officials at the lender have said. Majority of the shares were previously owned by the Rwandan government. Upon completion, the Group will pay an aggregate cash consideration of Rwf54.68 billion ($48.1 million) for the equity stake, hence making Equity Bank Rwanda the second largest bank in the financial sector. This means that the lender will have a total combined assets market share of 18 percent and 19 percent deposits market share, according to financial books as of December 2022. James Mwangi, Managing Director and CEO, Equity Group, attributed the investment to the company’s strong growth history and robust outlook. “This acquisition and proposed amalgamation of Cogebanque with Equity Bank Rwanda will result in a strengthened national and regional commercial bank in line with, and underpinning Rwanda’s aspirations of being an international financial and business center.” According to him, Rwanda’s economic growth over the last five years ranks it amongst the 10 fastest growing countries in the world, and is expected to be supported by a continued ease of doing business, recovery of global travel that underpins the Tourism, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) strategy targeting Foreign Direct Investments. ALSO READ: Equity Bank avails $6 billion fund to boost business recovery across Africa “An underpenetrated financial services sector, with private sector credit and GDP being below 30 percent provides a well-defined secular growth opportunity for the financial services Group,” Mwangi added. Equity Group continues to expand its footprint in the region with this merger in Rwanda joining Equity Bank Kenya and EquityBCDC in DR Congo, however the Rwandan subsidiary remains the highest profit earner for the group. Uzziel Ndagijimana, Minister of Finance, said that this acquisition reflects the trust and confidence placed in Rwanda's economic prospects and resilience of the financial industry. “The consolidation of these two institutions will undoubtedly contribute to the growth and stability of Rwanda's banking sector, enabling us to provide better financial services to our citizens and facilitate economic empowerment,” he noted. Over the past two years, Equity Bank has scooped the top award consecutively as the leading lender in Rwanda, championing access to finance for the SMEs segment in the economy as well as digital transformation. This will be further enhanced through the combination of Cogebanque’s existing network of 28 branches with that of Equity Rwanda to achieve countrywide distribution and coverage.