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Two of Malawi’s smallest banks, New Finance Bank (NFB) and Opportunity Bank, will merge to meet the central bank’s capital requirements, the lenders said on Friday.


Banks in the southern African nation are jostling with each other for market share and with telecommunications firms offering mobile money transfers, in a country where less than a fifth of the population have bank accounts.


In a joint statement, the two banks said that the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) had approved the merger and that it would take effect in six weeks.

“The shareholders of the merged bank intend to increase capital and grow operations,” said chairman and chief executive Francis Pelekamoyo, a former central bank governor.


Opportunity is a unit of micro-lender Opportunity International, while NFB has Finance Bank Zambia as a shareholder.


The merger reduces the number of licensed banks in Malawi to nine, including National Bank of Malawi and Standard Bank , a unit of Africa’s largest bank by assets.


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