ABIDJAN, July 23 (Reuters) - French telecoms provider Orange ORAN.PA on Thursday launched mobile banking operations in Ivory Coast, the third country where it has expanded into digital lending after France and Spain.
Company executives told a news conference they were aiming to sign up 10 million customers in Ivory Coast in the next five years and also plan to expand into the West African countries of Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso next year.
Orange diversified into digital banking in 2017, betting that the launch of a standalone lender would give it an edge over its competitors in attracting and retaining clients.
Paul de Leusse, Orange's deputy chief executive, said he expects strong uptake of banking services in Ivory Coast, where millions of customers already use Orange's mobile money transfer services.
"We think that profitability will be achieved ... more quickly than in France," he said.
The company says that growth is strong in Europe but the business is not yet profitable.
Banking operations in Ivory Coast will focus on small-scale lending to entrepreneurs, farmers and young people, with loans starting at 5,000 CFA francs ($8.88), company executives said.
They touted the company's expertise in managing digital platforms and the speed at which their systems can approve loans - within seconds for small credits - as advantages over traditional lenders.
Orange is partnering with West African bank Groupe NSIA for the project.
African countries are major markets for Orange, where one in 10 Africans are Orange clients. About 50 million people use its Orange Money mobile transfer service across about 15 African countries. ($1 = 563.2500 CFA francs)
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