Financial services group Standard Bank is considering acquisitions in key markets to expand operations, Bloomberg reported, citing CEO Sim Tshabalala.

As part of the expansion plan, Standard Bank is targeting Nigeria and Kenya and “if there was an appropriately priced asset with acceptable risk, we would definitely look at acquiring,” Tshabalala said.

The lender is also looking to strengthen operations in Ethiopia, where it has a representative office and in South Africa, its home market.

Expanding in these regions is part of Standard Bank’s efforts to tackle growing competition and cater to entities growing in the region.

Additionally, the bank hopes to benefit from the African Continental Free-Trade Area, a regional trade arrangement.

“Unlike five to ten years ago, there are a number of African multinationals, who have got regional strategies, as well as international multinationals who are operating in countries where we do not operate in,” Tshabalala told the publication in an interview

“They want us to provide them a service, which forces us to think outside the existing network,” such as in Ivory Coast, Morocco, and Egypt,” he added.

In Nigeria, Standard Bank wants to expand Stanbic IBTC’s operations, which runs 140 branches there.

According to Tshabalala, Ethiopia also offers a big opportunity for expansion, and in Kenya, the bank aims to strengthen its mid-sized business operations.

With improved earnings outlook, and the “stronger backdrop allows the lender to focus on building exposure in higher-growth pan-African regions,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Philip Richards.

Standard Bank has “excess capital, which can be put to use for acquisitions or investments to grow in external markets across Africa,” Richards added.