In this article we will talk about how African companies can open bank accounts in the EU or UK and conduct business in local currency.
It is not a secret that over the last five years, African economies and digital businesses have experienced significant growth and expansion due to a combination of factors, including increased access to technology, favorable demographics, and a growing entrepreneurial spirit.
Such economic growth was fueled by rapid internet penetration allowing digital entrepreneurs to target foreign and more developed economies in client pursuit.
Another key factor is that African nations have a predominantly youthful population which is growing at a rapid rate. This demographic advantage has attracted tech companies and entrepreneurs to invest in the region, targeting a market with significant potential for digital products and services. In turn it has helped E-commerce businesses to experience a substantial growth across Africa, with companies like Jumia, Konga, and Takealot expanding their operations.
Africa has been at the forefront of fintech innovation too, with mobile money services like M-Pesa in Kenya and various digital banking platforms gaining traction.
So in the past several years, African businesses have thrived due to increased internet access, and growing investment in sectors like e-commerce, fintech, and agri-tech. This growth has been further fueled by increased government support, improved infrastructure, and a burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem.
5 Reasons Why African Businesses Need EU Based Bank Accounts
African businesses that deal with international clients may need bank accounts in Europe or UK to conduct business in local or international currency (such as EUR, USD, GBP, CHF, etc.) for several reasons:
Currency Exchange and Risk Management: having a European bank account allows African businesses to conduct transactions in the local currency of their European trading partners, reducing the need for currency exchange and associated costs. It also helps mitigate currency risk, as fluctuations in exchange rates can impact the profitability of international transactions.
Operational Efficiency: a local European bank account can streamline financial operations for African businesses operating in Europe. They can pay suppliers, receive payments from customers, and manage expenses in the local currency more efficiently, avoiding delays and complications associated with international wire transfers and currency conversions.
Credibility and Trust: having a local bank account in Europe can enhance the credibility of African businesses in the eyes of European clients, partners, and regulatory authorities. It demonstrates commitment to the local market and simplifies financial interactions with European entities.
Regulatory Compliance: some European countries may have specific regulatory requirements or restrictions when it comes to financial transactions with foreign entities. Having a local bank account can facilitate compliance with these regulations, making it easier for African businesses to operate within the legal framework of the European market.
Taxation and Reporting: having a local bank account can help simplify tax reporting and compliance with local tax authorities in Europe, as financial transactions are conducted in the local currency and may be subject to local tax regulations.
3 Smart Ways To Move Money Between Europe And Africa
Bank Transfers: using international bank transfers or wire transfers through established financial institutions. This method offers security and reliability, but it can be expensive due to fees and unfavorable exchange rates. To minimize costs, consider using online platforms that specialize in international money transfers. For example, several banks that Epico Finance works with offer a wide range of wire transfers in local African currencies such as: Botswanan Pula, Ghanaian Cedi, Kenyan Shilling, Lesotho Loti, Mauritian Rupee, Malawian Kwacha, Nigerian Naira, Tunisian Dinar, Ugandan Shilling, South African Rand, Zambian Kwacha, Egyptian Pound, etc.
Cryptocurrency: cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum or stable coins for cross-border transactions are widely used in African business ecosystem. Cryptocurrencies can provide fast and relatively inexpensive transfers. There are a lot of on-ramp and off-ramp platform that can easily exchange stable coins to fiat and vice versa, with an instant fiat settlement into virtual IBAN. Epico Finance works with several such platforms that can bridge the gap between fiat and crypto in a single ecosystem. If you’d like to learn more about crypto to fiat solutions, contact us via a contact form.
Foreign Exchange (Forex) Brokers: forex brokers specialising in international currency exchange can offer competitive rates for large transactions.
How Can African Company Open A Bank Account In Europe?
We have already discussed how African business can benefit from having European or UK based bank account and what are smart ways to move funds between the two continents.
Next move is understanding how can actually African businesses open a bank account in the European Union or UK by following a series of steps.
First it is important to understand, which country or countries are the main markets for the African entity. A priority would be to have a local bank account with a local IBAN. However, EEA is very open and majority of the banks offer multi-currency accounts therefore any jurisdiction within the EEA would serve the purpose. We usually advise businesses to seek UK based accounts with multi-currency GB IBANs.
Selecting a bank is the next important step. We have already covered that topic extensively int this article here. Look for banks with experience in serving international clients and expertise in your industry. We can suggest a list of banks that fits your business model and flow of funds, get in touch with us here.
After bank is chosen, financial institutions typically have specific documentation requirements. Commonly requested documents include:
Business Registration: provide proof of your business's legal registration in your home country and any necessary certifications.
Business Plan: detail your business activities, financial projections, and the purpose of the EU bank account.
KYC Documents: Know Your Customer (KYC) documents such as passports, identification documents, and proof of address for the business owners, directors, and authorized signatories.
Corporate Documents: Provide corporate documents such as articles of incorporation, a certificate of good standing, and any relevant licenses.
Once the bank reviews and approves your application, you can proceed to open the business bank account. This may involve signing account agreements and providing the initial deposit. In addition, many EU banks offer online banking services, allowing you to manage your account remotely or via a mobile application. Ensure you have access to these services for convenient day-to-day operations.
If your business deals with multiple currencies, inquire about the availability of multi-currency accounts or foreign exchange services to manage transactions efficiently. Usually banks adjust their pricing for such transactions based on volumes and currency pairs. If more currency and payments business can be transferred to that specific bank, the better rates can be achieved. And let’s not forget that many banks in the EU or UK can provide a dedicated relationship manager or FX dealer. You can read more about currency management tips in our article here.
And lastly, it is extremely important to stay informed about EU banking regulations and compliance requirements, as these may change over time. Ensure your business continues to meet all regulatory obligations.
As seen from tremendous growth in the African digital business landscape, more and more companies are seeking clients, suppliers or partners in the EU. Naturally, a requirement of local business accounts arise and such accounts can be opened based on several steps. To open a bank account in the EU for an African business, the process involves choosing a bank, preparing required documents, complying with regulatory requirements, opening the account, setting up online banking, considering currency needs and maintaining compliance.