Looking back on the year just ended and the past five years of my tenure as CEO of this institution, I am reminded not just of how much we have accomplished but how we have persisted—time and time again—in the face of challenges. Having to weather what was arguably one of the most unprecedented times in recent history, measuring our success in numbers or in operational milestones now feels wholly inadequate. To me, our success this year was reflected in the value our innovative products and systems have driven for clients, the dedication our people have shown when serving those clients, and the tangible impact we have left on the community in which we do business. It is these fundamental pillars that not only helped us stand today as a stronger bank but also positioned us at the forefront of change for the industry as a whole.
We are fortunate to have been operating in a sector that has strong foundations, supported by smart fiscal policies that have ensured ample liquidity and capitalization prior to the outbreak. The Egyptian government curbed inflation and countered impacts on forex flows through a series of preventative measures to boost economic activity, which has paid off in spades. Egypt remains one of the few emerging markets that not only maintained positive GDP growth from 2019 to 2021 but is also one of only a handful pegged by the IMF for growth despite projections that global growth would dip into 2022.
Against this operating climate, we have invested substantially in our digital infrastructure, the effect of which is twofold: outstanding optimization across the Bank that has led to significant cost synergies and allowing us to deliver innovative digital service solutions to our clients. For the first time, we hit over one million users on our online digital retail channels—a twofold increase and an achievement that paved the way for our ranking as the top Egyptian bank for commercial, domestic e-payment transactions.
As we continue to optimize our client servicing, we have expanded both our retail and corporate client base and portfolio during the year, with a particular focus on small- and mediumsized businesses as part of our five-year financial inclusion strategy. SMEs in Egypt contribute less than a quarter of GDP, despite accounting for 80% of the country’s enterprises and the lion’s share of employment opportunities. It is for this reason that we continue to funnel resources into providing this vital segment of the economy with bespoke products and tech-enabled services to, in turn, fuel the economic growth engine.
We have also worked to replicate these successes beyond our borders. We ended our first full year of operations having owned 51% of Mayfair CIB Bank in Kenya, which marked our entry into one of the most compelling markets in Africa and the lynchpin of our strategy to position ourselves as a hub for business banking in East Africa.
As we embark on these new strategies, we continue to embed responsible banking principles at the core of everything we do. As a founding signatory of the UNEP-FI’s Principles for Responsible Banking, we are keenly aware of the role we play in steering the industry toward sustainable business strategies and ESG disclosure practices. The year also saw us become a founding member of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI). CIB is among 43 of the world’s biggest banks focused on delivering the banking sector’s climate commitments in alignment with Paris Agreement goals. Leading the development of Egypt’s green bond market, CIB issued Egypt’s first corporate Green Bond in partnership with the International Finance Corporation, designing a financial instrument that will enable Egypt’s private sector to drive the country’s transition to a green economy. With the help of our dedicated and talented team of over 7,000 CIBians, we will continue to tackle head-on the most pressing environmental and social challenges facing Egypt today.
It is this exceptional team of people who are in no uncertain terms the driving force behind our outstanding performance this year. These are the men and women who serve our customers and communities, manage our risks, create our innova-tive product offerings, map out our investments, and lead the Bank with stalwart vision for sustainable growth. Their commitment to this institution during even the most challenging of circumstances is unmatched, and I am proud to work with them day in and out to carve out our road to growth.
With these pillars in place, I am optimistic that the next twelve months will see growth we have anticipated in previous years. We are entering 2022 with the foundations in place to capitalize on the upswing and mitigate challenges ahead, having achieved solid revenue growth and profitability. Our solid capital base, sound asset quality, and conservative provisioning has fortified our balance sheet, which, in turn, will allow us to continue to drive value for both our individual and corporate clients.
In closing, I would like to express my gratitude to all our stakeholders—from our partners and affiliates, clients, stockholders, regulators, my fellow board members, to each and every one of our employees. While we know that the road to recovery is seldom even, our unique combination of agility, strength, and grit gives me hope that we will continue to enable individuals, businesses, and economies to thrive in the year ahead.
CEO and Managing Director