Development institutions were the toast of the night as Afreximbank won the Bank of the Year award and the Trade and Development Bank’s President, Ethiopian Admassu Tadesse received the Banker of the Year award.
The annual African Banker Awards, which celebrate individual and institutional excellence in Africa’s financial sector, have become one of the highlights of the African Development Bank’s traditional AGM activities wherever these are held in Africa and outside the continent.
Spotlight on inclusion and gender
The thematic spotlight this year was the need to spread mainstream services to larger segments of the population as the level of financial inclusion in Africa is still well below the global average. Gender parity at senior management level is also lagging behind although there has been considerable positive movement in this direction over the past decade.
The two issues were referred to by the main sponsors of the awards, the African Guarantee Fund and the Bank of Industry, both of which have created several innovative instruments and mechanisms to lend to the often marginalised SME sector (see African Banker magazine, Q2 2019).
The African Banker of the Year, Admassu Tadesse, has overseen the remarkable growth of the Trade and Development Bank (TDB). It has grown its portfolio five-fold since Tadesse took over as president in 2012.
TDB, formerly the PTA Bank, is the financial arm of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
It has 22 members from across the COMESA region as well as the East African Community and SADC. It also has two non-regional members – China and Belarus.
The profile of the Bank of the Year, Afreximbank has grown exponentially over the past decade and it is now one of a handful of major international development finance institution operating in the African space.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to former FirstRand Group CEO, South African Sizwe Nxasana. Under his leadership, the bank grew at a compound annual growth rate of 20%. In his acceptance speech, he called for even greater investment in human capital to accelerate growth on the continent.
The African Banker Icon went to Mitchell Elegbe, founder of Interswitch, the payments service provider. His company is predicted to become Africa’s first unicorn – a tech startup whose value exceeds $1bn.
Egypt’s Tarek Amer won the Central Bank Governor of the Year award for his work in restoring faith in Egypt’s markets and contributing to making the country one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one of the best performing emerging markets.
Romuald Wadagni from Benin won the Finance Minister of the Year award. He has considerably improved the country’s macro-economic indicators and has embarked on a number of reforms to structurally transform the economy.
South Africa dominates investment banking awards
South African banks dominated the Investment Banking and Deals of the Year categories. Absa won the Investment Bank of the Year award and Standard Bank and RMB won the Equity Deal of the Year award with the VIVO Energy IPO.
Deal of the Year in the Debt category award went to Rothschild & Co for the Senegal $2.2bn equivalent dual-currency Eurobond; and Crédit Agricole and TDB’s financing of the Floating LNG platform in Mozambique won the Infrastructure Deal of the Year award.
In other categories, Ecobank won the Retail Bank of the Year award, Kenya’s KCB won the prize for Innovation, and Equity Bank, also of Kenya, won the award for Socially Responsible Bank of the Year. Nigeria’s Bank of Industry won the prize for Financial Inclusion.
Commenting on the achievements of the banks shortlisted for the 2019 awards, Omar Ben Yedder, Publisher of African Banker magazine said: “We’ve been following the work of the financial services industry for many years. The sector over the years has seen great returns, and 2018 was another strong year for banks.
“Undoubtedly fintech was the most buoyant sector in terms of tech investments and we are yet to truly see the transformative impact it can have. Despite the positive stories from the banking sector, the words of the winner of our Banker of the Year at the Africa Investment Forum last year still resonate: we need to speed up, scale up and synergise.”
The awards took place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The country was once among the fastest growing in Africa with massive capital expenditure. Following the fall in the price of oil, however, the country is on a plan to structurally reform its economy (see African Banker, Q2 2019).
The awards, which are held under the patronage of the African Development Bank, are sponsored by the African Guarantee Fund as Platinum Sponsor, the Bank of Industry as Gold Sponsor, and Coris Bank as Associate Sponsor.
The Host Sponsor this year was Banco Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial, by far the country’s biggest bank in terms of assets and footprint.