UBA, ONE OF NIGERIA’S BIG FIVE BANKS, appears to have bounced back strongly after a difficult 2011 when it reported a loss. After a rigorous cleaning up of its balance sheet and putting its house in order, it has announced record first quarter results.
African Banker spoke with the bank’s CEO, Phillips Oduoza (above, centre), on the turnaround in the bank and the outlook for the industry.
Like many of the current crop of top bankers across Africa, he started at Citibank, on their executive training programme.
Oduoza is a considered a true banker, having worked across most departments in the bank: audit, financial control, risk, treasury and also had a stint in other departments such as marketing and HR, giving him what he refers to as ‘an edge’ over others.
He is, as he himself admits, a hands-on manager who wants to be in touch with all aspects of the bank at all times and someone with a keen eye for detail. He left Citi quite early in his career to become one of the pioneer team that helped to build Diamond Bank to become one of Nigeria’s most successful franchises.
Oduoza is an engineer by education although he went straight into banking. He went on to gain an MBA and various executive qualifications. A keen traveller, Oduoza has travelled to over 200 countries. Those who know him say he is not a big risk taker, but at the same time ‘he is not risk averse’, although he does like to ‘ponder and take his time before taking a final decision on an issue’. A keen golfer he plays to a handicap of 12.
During Renaissance Capital’s Third Pan-Africa 1:1 Investor Conference Rencap’ s CEO West Africa, Yvonne Ike and Chief Economist, Charles Robertson, spoke on Africa as an attractive investment and economic frontier among global economies.
Dr Ahmed Heikal is the founder of Egypt’s Citadel Capital, the leading private equity firm in the Africa and the Middle East, currently with investments of more than $9bn. Its 19 opportunity-specific funds control platform companies with investments in 15 industries including energy, mining, agrifoods, cement, transportation and retail. Since its inception in 2004, Citadel has generated cash returns of $2.2bn for its co-investors on investments of $650m – more than any other MEA private equity firm. Citadel Capital's largest shareholder is its employees, who hold a 27% stake and voting control. The firm has $913.6m of its own capital invested across its funds and platform companies.
Prior to founding Citadel Capital, Dr Heikal was an executive board member and managing director of EFG-Hermes Holding, which he helped transform from a small financial consultancy into the leading investment bank in the Arab world and the second-largest full-service investment bank in global emerging markets.
A year after the Egyptian uprising, and what he believes to be lost months of economic growth, Dr Heikal speaks out to advocate for the role of the business community and private investment in building a new social contract in his home country. He argues forcefully in favour of reforming Egypt’s policy of subsidising basic foodstuffs and fuel, a policy that currently absorbs a significant proportion of the country’s budget. Subsidies account for 23.6% of total government spending, and energy for around 81.5% of all subsidy spending.
In this absorbing interview for African Business, he outlines his investment strategy for Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa. An optimist, he sees tough times but also outstanding opportunities ahead.
Interview conducted by Alexa Dalby
Xavier-Luc Duval is the finance minister of Mauritius and also the Vice-Prime Minister. He has an honour’s degree in economics from Leeds University and is a chartered accountant.
He comes from a family with strong political roots – his father Gaetan Duval was a leading figure in the political landscape and his own career has been fairly dramatic. In 1993, he took over the leadership of the Parti Mauricien Social-Démocrate (PMSD). In 1995, he became Minister of Tourism and Industry under Sir Anerood Jugnauth but resigned in the same year. He returned to the government in 1999 and has since held ministerial portfolios as well as the position of Vice Prime Minister. He has been in his current position since 2000 under the alliance with the Labour Party led by Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam.
Xavier-Luc Duval has set out to privatise virtually all the enterprises in which the state has a stake and believes that Mauritius is on the brink of becoming a high-income economy. Continental Africa is very much a centrepiece of his wider economic outlook and he is convinced that Mauritius can play a vital role as the bridge between Africa and the increasing number of investors looking to the continent for growth.
Interview by Anver Versi.
Arnold Ekpe, CEO of Ecobank International, is one of a handful of African business champions who have become legends during their own lifetimes. The tall, bespectacled Nigerian is quietly spoken and probably the most modest CEO I have ever come across. He inhabits the world of finance and banking with an ease and grace that comes from uninterrupted success.
There is little doubt that the story of Ecobank under Ekpe’s leadership has been one of continuous success. It has subsidiaries in 32 countries in Africa and 1,140 branches across the continent. It is the first true indigenous African multinational – a genuine pan-African institution. If it was regarded as something exotic during its early days, it is now an essential cog that makes the continental financial system work. Ekpe was born in Nigeria but also lived for a while in Cameroon. He describes himself as a perennial nomad – studying engineering at Manchester University then crisscrossing the continent for Citibank. He obtained a first class engineering degree and a master’s in business administration but decided to go into banking after stints in industry.
Even a conversation of a few minutes with him is sufficient to reveal a formidable intellect and an acute eye for detail. In his early forties, he became CEO of Ecobank – then in desperate financial straits despite the noble principles on which it had been founded. The pan-African nature of the bank had been the main attraction for Ekpe but he found himself at odds with the board on the strategy and structure of the bank. He left, but was recalled four years later when the board realised that his vision was the only practical one.
The innovative and most technically advanced banking system he supervises today is a different from the institution he took over in 1996 as the Boeing Dreamliner is from the propeller-driven biplane of yesteryear.
Ekpe will leave his post at the end of this year, in step with company policy, and hopefully write his memoirs. His successor, Thierry Tanoh, will join the bank in July to work alongside him.
Ekpe is married to ‘the same woman all my life’ and has three children. He was a ‘decent’ footballer and is an avid fan of Manchester United. Arnold Ekpe may leave banking but African banking will not leave him alone – he has far too much to contribute to be able to fade away into the background.
The following interview with Arnold Ekpe was conducted by African Banker Editor, Anver Versi.
The African Development Corporation (ADC) is a German financial and investment holding company focused on sub-Saharan Africa. It was founded in late 2007 and its shares have been listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange since December 2010. Its main interest is in SSA banks and insurance companies.
The financial services company belongs to Frankfurt’s Angermayer, Brumm & Lange Group. The World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) insures the company against various risks, including political upheavals – a critical provision in the light of the current events in North Africa.
African Business editor Anver Versi explores the ADC’s African strategy with managing director Dirk Harbecke.
Zephyr Management, LP is a global private equity and marketable securities firm, founded in 1994. It specialises in creating and managing highly focused and value-added investment funds and has sponsored 22 investment funds representing approximately $1.8bn in capital commitments.
It works with Kingdom Zephyr for two Pan-African Investment Partners funds and has managed three southern African funds since 1995. Before founding Zephyr, Tom Barry was President and CEO of Rockefeller & Co, the investment management arm of the Rockefeller family (1983–1993) and before that, he was employed by T Rowe Price Associates, Inc (1969–1982). Tom Barry, CEO and founder of Zephyr Management LP in New York, is one of the pioneers of private equity investment into Africa. African Banker interviewed him.
As Nigeria’s capitals markets celebrate 50 years of regulation, we interview Arunma Oteh, the Director General of the SEC Nigeria. Since taking office in January 2010, Ms Oteh has overseen sweeping changes designed to tighten oversight and restore confidence to the country’s capital markets.