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Bank of Africa and Banque Belgolaise are combining forces and entering into a strategic alliance while maintaining their own identities, as well as the links and approaches which characterise the two networks.

Through this alliance, the two groups aim to ensure the concerted development of their networks, linked to a constant improvement in the services offered to their respective customers. Both African and European customers will therefore have access to wider geographic coverage of both continents, a joint statement declares.

This alliance should ultimately also enable the two groups to offer a wider range of joint products, among others in the areas of electronic banking and internet banking, and develop organisational synergies particularly with respect to information technology, it goes on.

The two groups have decided to establish shareholding links with one another. In 2004, Belgolaise is expected to take up a maximum holding of 20% in the capital of African Financial Holding, the reference shareholder of the Bank of Africa Group. There are also plans in return to transfer four banks from the Belgolaise network to the Bank of Africa Group.

Subject to the authorisation of the competent supervisory authorities and their respective management bodies, the four banks in the Belgolaise network that are to join the Bank of Africa are BIA-Togo, The Trust Bank (Ghana), Allied Bank International (Uganda) and Eurafrican Bank (Tanzania). They will then operate under the Bank of Africa brand.

Belgolaise was established in the Congo in 1909 and is now the only European bank dedicated entirely to Africa. With offices in Brussels, Paris and London, the bank operates in sub-Saharan Africa through a network of 12 banks. Belgolaise is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fortis Bank, the leading bank in the Benelux countries and an important player in the banking sector in Europe.

The Bank of Africa Group, whose history goes back to Mali in 1982, now operates through a network of commercial banks in six countries in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and in Madagascar under the common name of Bank of Africa. The group is also active in the fields of insurance, financial leasing and stock broking.