The 16th edition of Africa’s most prestigious business accolades, the annual African Banker magazine awards, was held in Accra, the capital of Ghana in May this year.
After two years of virtual presentations due to the Covid restrictions, this edition returned to a live, and very lively, format. “This has been such a welcome return to normality,” said one of the hundreds of guests who attended the much-anticipated event.
The unique configuration of the Awards combines a recognition and celebration of organisational as well as individual performances in perhaps Africa’s most globally competitive sector with an evening of cultural entertainment.
The event provides bankers and financiers from across Africa and the world with an opportunity to meet, mingle, exchange notes and even strike up deals as they let their hair down and dine together in a relaxed atmosphere.
Notable attendees at this year’s event included: Ken Ofori-Atta, Ghana’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning; Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo, Senegal’s Minister of Finance and the Budget; Romuald Wadagni, Benin’s Minister of Economy and Finance; Swazi Tshabalala, Senior Vice-President of the AfDB; Prof. Vincent Nmehielle, Secretary-General of the AfDB; Solomon Quaynor, Vice-President for the Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialisation; and Chinelo Anohu, Senior Director of the Africa Investment Forum.
We present short profiles of some of the winners of this year’s Awards.
African Bank of the Year
Standard Bank Group
For the second year in a row, the Standard Bank Group (SBG) has won the African Bank of the Year title. The group has a formidable African footprint, with a presence in 20 African countries and five key financial centres, enabling its clients to access the global market.
Despite the pandemic-related disruptions, Standard Bank made significant strategic progress across several areas in 2021. The group’s three client segments delivered client franchise growth, expanded their leading market positions and offered an improved client experience.
The group now has over 16m clients, reaching the 10m customer mark in South Africa after attracting one million new clients in 2021.
Standard Bank Group saw its headline earnings for the 12 months to 31 December 2021 rebound 57% to $1.69bn, driven by a strong recovery in client activity, an improvement in client balance sheets and real growth in its underlying franchise.
Standard Bank was recognised by the Efma-Mastercard SME Banking Awards as among the top banks globally in its efforts to support and provide relief to SME clients impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This support ranged from providing access to flexible funding for cashflow support, to fee waivers, loan repayment moratoriums, and creating awareness around support information resources and solutions to help businesses navigate through the strictest periods of lockdown.
In November 2021, Stanbic Bank Kenya, Stanbic Kenya Foundation and the German Development Cooperation launched a partnership to accelerate the business recovery and growth of SMEs. The $545,416 project supports SMEs to rebound from the pandemic.
The group also introduced Unayo, a digital platform that combines the simplicity of mobile money with the sophistication of a bank account, aiming to connect Africa’s informal market to financial services in an easily accessible manner, with free transactions and nominal charges.
In South Africa, the group provided $5.1m for initiatives to promote access to Covid-19 vaccinations, and to provide food relief and humanitarian support to individuals and communities impacted by social unrest and natural disasters. The bank also spent $1.7m on health initiatives across Africa with a focus on Covid-19, including provision of medical equipment and upgrading of hospital wards.
As a signatory to the UN Women Empowerment Principles, Standard Bank in 2021 achieved 33% women representation on its board. The African Women Impact Fund (AWIF), an initiative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and its partners, was established in collaboration with Standard Bank in 2020. The AWIF aims to raise up to $1bn over 10 years for women fund managers who, in turn, will invest in high-impact businesses and projects across Africa.
In 2021, Standard Bank made the proposal to buy 100% of Liberty Holdings Limited and to integrate Liberty more closely into the greater group. This led to the de-listing of Liberty and Liberty becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of SBG.
Standard Bank worked with Heineken on a landmark deal to buy South African wine and spirits maker Distell in a $2.5bn arrangement. It entered the deal as the guarantor, agreeing to undertake the maximum cash consideration of $1.2bn – the largest guarantee ever issued by Standard Bank and one of the biggest in Africa.
Standard Bank is a leading player in the sustainable finance business, having issued Africa’s largest green bond as well as arranging innovative sustainable and sustainability-linked funding instruments for clients across the African continent.
The Group was recognised as the ‘Most Valuable Banking Brand on the African Continent for 2022’ in Brand Finance’s annual ranking of the world’s Top 500 Banking Brands, after increasing brand value by 26% to $1.58bn.
African Banker of the Year
Benedict Oramah, President, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank)
Professor Benedict Oramah has been the epitome of transformational leadership, spearheading Africa’s trade and economic development since he took the position in 2015.
Under his leadership, the Bank has helped many African entities win and execute projects within the continent because, as an ardent pan-Africanist, he believes that opportunities in Africa should accrue first to the African people. One example is that from Sudan / South Sudan to Nigeria, many Africans are now participating in the continent’s oil and gas industries, thanks to Afreximbank’s emphasis and promotion of local content.
Since he took office in 2015, he has transformed Afreximbank from a $5bn bank to a $25bn bank as at the end of 2021, overseeing a five-fold growth in the Bank’s total assets in half a decade. The Bank’s revenue has also crossed the $1bn mark. Afreximbank has risen to become an apex institution facilitating intra-regional trade and continental integration.
Professor Oramah took personal charge of the Bank’s fight against the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic on African countries. The Bank disbursed over $8bn to assist countries to deal with the health and economic consequences. The Bank’s financial support to Africa was second only to the funds provided by the IMF.
Afreximbank has launched flagship initiatives, including the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), to support continental trade using local currencies. In addition to saving the continent at least $5bn in annual settlement charges. PAPSS is expected to revolutionise Africa’s financial system.
President Oramah’s passion for Africa and Africa’s economic emancipation drives him to seek African solutions to global problems. Consequently, Afreximbank is perhaps the only African institution to have launched comprehensive crisis response programmes to deal with the perennial droughts in East and Southern Africa; a programme to deal with the impact of commodity shocks on African countries; and a programme to contain the health and economic impact of the pandemic.
The Bank’s response to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the $4bn Ukraine Crisis Adjustment Trade Financing Programme for Africa (UKAFPA), is regarded as perhaps the world’s most original mitigating plan currently in force.
Afreximbank has now evolved into one of the most powerful institutions at the heart of the African development project and is without any parallel currently as the continent’s topmost thought-leader.
Today Prof. Oramah is one of the most recognisable and influential African figures, not only in the world of global finance and development but in several other fields as well. With his seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, he has been an inspirational leader of the Cairo-headquartered organisation.
His can-do attitude has permeated well beyond the confines of the Bank and his motto – “if it is possible, it will be done; if it is impossible, it can be done” – is fast becoming a rallying call for Africa.
African Banker Icon
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
Vera Songwe, is a UN Under-Secretary-General and the 9th serving Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Africa’s premier thought leadership institution, focused on generating knowledge and applying policy research in support of accelerated economic diversification and structural transformation.
She became the first woman to lead the institution in the organisation’s 60-year history and the highest-ranking UN regional official.
As a leading figure on macroeconomic and debt issues, Songwe’s organisational reforms, focusing on ideas for a prosperous Africa, have highlighted macroeconomic stability, development finance, the digital transformation, and intra-African trade and competitiveness as key priorities.
Songwe has created a private sector platform for the first time at ECA, with a strong focus on climate change, energy, the business environment and improving sustainable financing of the SDGs.
She has championed Africa’s ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area and improving competitiveness in Africa. She launched the Digital Centre for Excellence, an on-demand source of technical advice for countries on their digital ID and digital economy, and established the African Women’s Leadership Fund, developed to accelerate the growth of African women fund managers.
In March 2020, she was listed as one of ‘Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women’ by Forbes, having been named as one of the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ by Jeune Afrique in 2019.
In 2017 she was also listed as amongst the ‘100 Most Influential Africans’ by New African magazine and as one of the ‘20 Young Power Women in Africa’. In 2018, she was chosen by the Institut Choiseul pour la politique internationale et la géoéconomie (France) as one of its ‘African leaders of tomorrow’.
Before joining the ECA, Songwe was the Regional Director of the International Finance Corporation, covering West and Central Africa. Previously, she held a number of roles at the World Bank, including serving as Country Director for Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal, and Adviser to the Managing Director for Africa, Europe and Central and South Asia.
Prior to joining the World Bank, she was a Visiting Researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota and at the University of Southern California.
She holds a PhD in Mathematical Economics from the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics, a Master of Arts in Law and Economics and a Diplôme d’études approfondies in Economic Science and Politics from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. She originally took her BA in Economics and Political Science at the University of Michigan. She was also a student of Our Lady of Lourdes College, Bamenda, Cameroon.
“What we are focusing on at the ECA is prosperity,” she said, accepting her award. “The ingredients are there for success. There is latent innovation; what we need to do is provide the infrastructure – the soft infrastructure, the hard infrastructure and the human capital to deliver the end game, which is jobs, prosperity and a better life for all.”
Atedo Peterside CON, Founder of ICBT Bank
Atedo Petersideis a Nigerian entrepreneur, investment banker, and economist. He is the founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Anap Business Jets Limited (Anap Jets), and the Atedo N. A. Peterside Foundation (Anap Foundation), a non-profit organisation committed to promoting good governance.
In 2010, Peterside was given one of Nigeria’s top honours when he was made the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
He gained his secondary education at King’s College, Lagos, obtained a BSc in economics from City University, London and an MSc, also in economics, from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Peterside was the Chairman of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC from 2014 until March 2017. He is currently a Director of both Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd and Standard Bank Group Ltd.
He is also the Chairman of ART X Collective Ltd and Endeavour High Impact Entrepreneurship Ltd/Gte, a non-profit organisation that provides mentorship and support to scale up companies. He also serves on the Africa Advisory Board of the Prince’s Trust International.
In May 2017, he was appointed as the Alternate Private Sector Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council.
He was also a member of the National Economic Management Team during the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua (2007-2010) as well as during the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2011-2015).
In April 2020, he resigned from the Board of Directors of Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc (Heineken Subsidiary) and Unilever Nigeria Plc in order to concentrate his attention on the work of the Anap Foundation’s Covid-19 Think Tank. He also resigned as Cadbury Nigeria Plc chairman in June 2020, so as to concentrate on other challenges.
Best DFI and Sustainable Bank of the Year
Trade and Development Bank (TDB)
The Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB) became the only institution to win two African Banker Awards on the same night as judges deemed it both the best Development Finance Institution (DFI) and the most sustainable bank of the year.
Established in 1985, TDB is a multilateral, treaty-based, investment-grade DFI, with 41 sovereign and institutional shareholders and assets of $8bn. TDB serves 22 economies in its region, with the mandate to finance and foster trade, regional economic integration, and sustainable development.
TDB is part of the TDB Group, which also comprises TDF (the Trade and Development Fund), ESATF (the Eastern and Southern African Trade Fund), TCI (TDB Captive Insurance), and the TDB Academy.
This has been a sterling year for one of Africa’s most efficient institutions. In addition to its African Banker Awards, it also won the ‘Outstanding Sustainable Financing in Emerging Markets in Africa’, and ‘Outstanding Leadership in Sustainable Finance by a Multilateral Institution in Africa’ awards from Global Finance.
“These double accolades celebrate TDB’s continued efforts, palpable impact, and longstanding commitment to drive sustainable development in the region,” says the Bank.
Through its ‘triple bottom line’ approach, every transaction TDB finances is expected to have a measurable development impact, and be sustainable in economic, environmental, and social terms in member states – in line with the SDGs, Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement.
2021 saw TDB’s gross portfolio grow by 6% to $5.8bn, with the proportion of transactions with low or no environmental or social risk growing from 73% to 79%.
“TDB’s well-developed ESG framework comprising various systems and policies, its adherence to IFC Performance Standards and sustainability-themed debt, ensure it infuses impact-driven requirements in the deployment of capital in the region,” says the Bank.
Internally, staff wellness, learning, and development programmes foster a positive environment conducive to sustainability, whilst gender policies, diversity and inclusion, health and safety are streamlined across TDB initiatives.
This award follows previous African Banker Awards wins including ‘Infrastructure Deal of the Year 2021’ and ‘African Bank of the Year 2020’.
Minister of Finance of the Year
Hon. Vera Esperança dos Santos Daves de Sousa, Angola
Vera Esperança dos Santos Daves de Sousa is the first woman to be appointed as Minister of Finance in Angola. She was previously the Secretary of State for Finance and Treasury.
She has extensive experience in the banking and financial world. This includes working as a finance analyst at Sonangol ESSA and Director of the Products and Research Office at Banco Privado Atlântico.. From 2014 to 2016 she was the Executive Director of the Capital Market Commission and from September 2016 to October 2017, Chairman of the commission.
She says her government’s main focus is fiscal consolidation – expanding the tax base and reforming the fiscal system to maximise efficiency on the fiscal revenue side.
The introduction of VAT, she says, was a huge reform: “From 2019 to 2020, our fiscal revenue increased by 41%, which is remarkable. It was especially important because of the pandemic and the drop in oil prices, and it helped us to deal with the shortfall of revenues from that sector.”
In an interview with The Business Year Angola 2022, she said: “We want foreign companies to invest in Angola by deploying a friendly fiscal environment. In terms of expenditure, we suspended all projects without a stable source of financing. Currently, we only maintain budget projects that have financing from a multilateral institution like the World Bank.”
She says the best way to deal with Angola’s huge public debt, which is 107% of GDP, “is by expanding our GDP. This is why we are working on the business environment, to align our legal framework, making our administration less bureaucratic, and showing all the opportunities available to attract private investment.
“We also need to be more creative in designing solutions: starting PPPs, launching green bonds, and so forth. We need mixed solutions to attract private sector investments to tourism and agriculture, which will boost those activities and in turn yield more revenue for more equitable regional investment.
“Each crisis,” she says, “is an opportunity, and we are taking advantage to introduce reforms we consider crucial for the future. When we generated high oil returns, we lacked the incentive to change, but when prices fell it was a matter of life or death.”
“All these reforms were socially painful because we were subsidising the consumption of our population. We now need to transfer this revenue to improve social conditions. We built new hospitals while improving the existing stock. And there remains much to do on the education front to improve curricula and the teaching body. Additionally, we are determined to galvanise the private sector to create employment.”
Discussing Angola’s high inflation rate, she says “Fighting inflation can create certain problems for the real economy and the treasury, since banks lack sufficient money to concede credits and buy the bonds that the treasury needs to finance itself.
“The Angolan kwanza is currently sustainably appreciating, and so the challenges lie with the monetary policy and how the real sector responds to the incentives we are putting in place to overcome external pressure.” (See Capital Markets, page 46.)
Deal of the Year – Debt
Bank of Industry, Nigeria – €750m Debut Senior Note Participation
This transaction represents an historic achievement by theBank of Industry, Nigeria (BOI). The deal represents the BOI’s first Eurobond, the provision of the sovereign’s first Eurobond guarantee, as well as the first Euro-denominated bond transaction from Nigeria, creating a benchmark for other prospective issuers from the region.
BOI has now been introduced to the Eurobond market, which is a much larger and more sustainable market for accessing capital than the syndication market. The market is the preferred method of raising funds for most DFIs.
The entire proceeds of €750m from this transaction have been swapped into naira, based on the agreement with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Disbursing the proceeds of this deal to Nigeria’s industrial sector, BOI believes, will create at least 1.5m direct and indirect jobs.
The transaction has been listed on the London Stock Exchange and governed by English law.
The BOI says the institution was faced with challenges it had not encountered previously, with the typical international syndications done in the past.
“One complex part of the transaction arose as the transaction had to be quoted on the London Stock Exchange. But BOI’s mandate does not permit it to do so by itself. We had to overcome this challenge by incorporating a Special Purpose Vehicle – BOI Finance BV – to fulfil this requirement,” it says.
The transaction had to pass through several levels of government before it was presented to the Nigerian Federal Executive Council for consideration, requiring “incessant meetings, sessions and engagements justifying the need for the issue”.
Even after the approval of the Federal Executive Council, the Nigerian constitution requires that any financial transaction being guaranteed by the Federal Government needs the approval of the National Assembly. This created the need to engage various committees within the National Assembly before the appropriate approvals were obtained.
“There were also several engagements with the global co-ordinators and book runners on several aspects of the deal. The legal review of all associated agreements was also a painstaking and rigorous process,” says the Bank.
The deal was launched at the benchmark value of €500m, but was oversubscribed by 50%. Hence the final value of €750m.
African Export-Import Bank, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), CitiGroup and Rand Merchant Bank were Joint Global Coordinators and Joint Bookrunners, while Mashreq and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation were Joint Lead Managers and Joint Bookrunners. Investors include the Lead Arrangers, alongside 50 other high-quality buy-and-hold international investors.
SME Bank of the Year
With offices in 35 sub-Saharan African countries, the Ecobank brand is synonymous with banking in Africa. “Our aim is to be SMEs’ bank of choice for trade in support of the AfCFTA initiative,” says the Bank.
Its SME line of business contributes 53% (2020: 50%) of its operating income.
The recently launched ‘Ellevate by Ecobank’ programme provides funding, cash management, training, support and mentoring to women-led/owned/focused businesses and, in its first 14 months to December 2021, had onboarded 13,000 customers and extended loans worth $87m.
In July 2021, Ecobank secured a $50m trade finance facility from CDC Group (UK’s DFI) to provide systemic liquidity to underserved markets and crucial trade finance support to local African banks and businesses.
The Bank’s support initiatives for SMEs include a partnership with Google to provide SME customers with a free online presence through the Google My Business platform. The net-based training programme has reached 500,000 Ecobank commercial banking customers and potential customers across Africa.
Ecobank’s Marketplace eCommerce solution enables sole traders/MSMEs to host and market their goods/services, find customers through online marketplaces (Flutterwave, DPO and iPay) and use ecommerce to grow sales, receiving instant and secure online payments.
The Bank partnered with Microsoft, LinkedIn, GitHub and Ecobank Academy last year to launch the online Global Skilling training programme, equipping business owners/employees with digital skills across 10 skillsets (marketing, communications, service, sales, etc.). Over 50,000 participated in five months.
FinTech of the Year Award
This award goes to the fintech that has brought the most innovative practices to the financial services industry.
Interswitch, in the financial year 2021/22, launched five novel payment processing solutions designed to simplify digital payments and provide more secure payment solutions to financial institutions, SMEs, merchants and their customers.
These included the first-of-its-kind creative programme in West Africa, the Biometrics Payment Solution on Point of Sale (PoS) and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), designed to protect customers against digital payment fraud, and to give them faster and more convenient ways to validate payments.
The solution utilises physiological features unique to everyone, such as fingerprints, voice, and facial features to verify payment transactions, and is particularly unique as it is the first time such a biometric transaction capability would be interoperable across all financial institutions in Nigeria.
Founded in 2002, Interswitch disrupted the traditional cash-based payments value chain in Nigeria by supporting the introduction of electronic payments processing and service-switching. Over 200,000 businesses transact on the Interswitch platform daily. Interswitch has an over- 90% market share in electronic transactions processing in Nigeria today, according to Moody’s.
Award for Financial Inclusion
Tugende was born out of the passion to improve the lives of ordinary Ugandans, starting with the typical motorcycle taxi driver. Such small businesses are often screened out by banks’ financial reporting and collateral requirements or are charged very high interest.
As a result, there are limited financing options for individuals in need of products such as motorcycles. Motorcycle taxis have grown as an alternative mode of transport in the rapidly expanding cities of Africa.
In addition, it is estimated that the value of motorcycle taxi rides is worth over $10bn in the major cities. In East Africa, motorcycle taxi rides are estimated to be worth $1.6bn in the major cities of Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam.
There are 1.5m full-time motorcycle taxi drivers in East Africa, with 400,000 in Uganda alone. Approximately 70% of these individuals rent their bikes as they lack access to formal financing.
Through the provision of affordable lease-to-own products, Tugende allows these individuals to own income-generating assets. The company’s first product is a lease-to-own package for boda-boda riders.
Since its inception, Tugende has financed over 50,000 clients and processes 400-500 applications per week across their 30 branches in Uganda and Kenya. Through expansion into new markets and increased product offerings, Tugende aims to have a net portfolio value of $230m serving more than 90,000 customers by 2025.
Through hard work, diligence, creativity, and the support of angel investors, a viable and thriving business was built. Profits from the initial $10,000 investment were reinvested and recycled to grow the business and portfolio to $22m today.
Tugende has 24,746 active clients across Uganda and Kenya, with over 20,000 completed (now owning the asset) clients. Over 52,000 customers have benefited from Tugende’s lease-to-own package which includes training, safety gear, insurance and a clear path to ownership.
Infrastructure Deal of the Year
The Luanda Bita Water Supply Project – African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI)
The BITA Project is a national priority investment for the Government of Angola, which is set to expand and improve the water supply service in the fast-growing, unserved urban and peri-urban belts of South Luanda.
The deal is one of the largest single-term loans provided in 2021 by a consortium of commercial banks for an African government and sets a global record as the biggest World Bank guaranteed financing.
The project his designed to help develop and improve water infrastructure in Luanda, i.e. production, purification, transmission, storage and distribution facilities, through building a water treatment plant, a transmission system, water storage facilities, distribution centres, and the installation of new networks and metered connections.
It is expected to have overall positive environmental and social impacts by improving the health and environmental conditions of the beneficiaries. It will also contribute towards meeting the UN’s SDG6 – i.e., achieving access to water and sanitation for all – and is designed to create financially sustainable cash flows.
The project’s water production aims to serve two million people. Transmission, storage and distribution investments include a water treatment plant with an initial production capacity of 3 cubic metres per second, 72km of gravity transmission pipelines towards Luanda, and storage and distribution systems in the suburban districts of Bita Cabolombo, Mundial and Ramiros.
The African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI) provided insurance support for the World Bank’s partially guaranteed facility to the Government of Angola for expansion and improvement of water supply services.
The project financing, valued at $1.09bn, was structured as two separate facilities:
- A 15-year syndicated loan financed through a combination of private commercial banks including: Standard Chartered Bank, UK; BNP Paribas, France; Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, France; Credit Suisse AG, UK; and Société Générale, France. The lenders provided up to $910m to the Republic of Angola, acting through the Ministry of Finance, with IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and ATI issuing guarantees on the loan facility.
- A $165m BpiFrance Assurance Export guaranteed facility, with Standard Chartered Bank acting as structuring and co-ordinating bank, book runner and mandated lead arranger. Santander and Helaba Bank also came in as mandated lead arrangers on this facility.
With this structure, ATI and its partners delivered a blended finance and blended guarantee structure which can be replicated on the continent to support Africa’s development agenda.