By Etuka Sunday
Winners of the 2019 edition of the African Banker Awards were announced at a prestigious Gala Dinner in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
The Awards, held annually on the fringes of the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank, have established themselves as the Oscars of African banking celebrating excellence in banking and finance on the African continent.
No one region dominated this year’s awards although there was a call from the organisers for greater effort to ensure banking was more inclusive, both in terms of gender representation across senior management in banks and lending to the small and medium sized enterprises.
This call was echoed by the two main sponsors of the awards, the African Guarantee Fund and the Bank of Industry, both of whom have created a number of innovative instruments and mechanisms to lend to the SME sector.
The two big awards of the night went to development finance institutions. Afreximbank won Bank of the Year and the Trade and Development Bank’s President, Ethiopian Admassu Tadesse, won African Banker of the Year. TDB has grown its portfolio five-fold since Tadesse took over as President, largely increasing its presence in East and Southern Africa, where it operates. Afreximbank in the past 18 months has launched a number of game changing products.
This year’s lifetime achievement went to former First Rand 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 if we wanted 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 be Africa’s first Africa-led unicorn – tech start up whose value exceeds $1bn.
Egyptian Central Bank Governor, Tarek Amer won Central Bank Governor of the Year, for his work in restoring faith in Egypt’s markets and contributing to making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one of the best performing emerging markets.
Romuald Wadagni from Benin won Finance Minister of the Year. He has managed to considerably improve the country’s macro-economic indicators as well as embarked on a number of reforms to structurally transform of the economy.
South African banks dominated the investment banking and deals of the year categories. Absa won Investment Bank of the Year. Standard Bank and RMB won the equity deal of the year with the VIVO Energy IPO. Deal of the year in the debt category went to Rothschild & Co for the Senegal $2.2bn equivalent dual-currency Eurobond and Credit Agricole and TDB’s financing of the Floating LNG platform in Mozambique won the infrastructure Deal of the Year.
In other categories, Ecobank won Retail Bank of the year; Kenya’s KCB won the prize for innovation and Equity Bank for its CSR activities. Nigeria’s Bank of Industry won the prize for Financial Inclusion.
Commenting on the impressive achievements of the banks shortlisted for the 2019 awards, Omar Ben Yedder, Publisher of African Banker 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 still resonate when he said last year at the Africa Investment Forum: we need to speed up, scale up and synergise. ”
The Awards took place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on the sidelines of the African Development Bank Annual Meetings which are now officially open. The country was for many years 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.
The awards, which are held under the high 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. The awards were preceded by a cocktail reception hosted by Afreximbank.