The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has called for increased impact investing in Africa for the continent to attain its full potential.
He made the call during his keynote address at the Africa Investment Risk & Compliance Summit 2021 organised by the Emerging Business Intelligence & Innovation (EBII) Group which was held at the prestigious University of Oxford, United Kingdom, on Friday, July 30, 2021.
Mr Onyeagwu delivered his keynote address after the special keynote address by His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana & Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, who was the Special Guest of Honour. Her Excellency Dr Amani ABOU-ZEID, The African Union Commissioner in charge of Infrastructure and Energy, also delivered a keynote address at the Summit.
Delivering the keynote address with the theme “Leveraging Impact Investment Opportunities for Growth in Africa”, Onyeagwu described impact investing as an investment that yields optimal returns for investors, value for all stakeholders, and guarantees continued sustenance and existence of humanity.
He decried the shallowness of Africa’s financial market as depicted by the fact that no African exchange is among the Morgan Stanley developed markets index, only two African exchanges (Egypt and South Africa) are in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, and just six African exchanges are in the MSCI Frontier Market Index.
He noted that although the International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that the global investors’ appetite for impact investing could total as much as $26 trillion, only approximately 8 percent of the assets of impact intent funds are focused on Africa.
According to him, this is not significant enough, and Africa appears to be in the room but not on the table, considering that Africa is in dire need of investment and the continent’s 1.3 billion people represent about 17 percent of the global population of about 7.8 billion.
Citing the immense opportunities in Africa that represent enormous investment proposition for discerning investors, including the huge population, large market and active labour force, and the rich natural endowment, Onyeagwu described Africa as “the new frontier” for global growth.
He made a case for increased impact investment in Africa, noting that investment opportunities on the continent cut across agriculture, healthcare, housing, infrastructure, electricity, and the creative sectors.
Onyeagwu exuded immense optimism on the coming into effect of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative, which would create a single, continent-wide market for goods and services, business and investment as being in one country on the continent grants investors access to the entire continent.
He also called investors’ attention to Africa’s rich natural endowment, which includes 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land and 9 percent of the world’s freshwater bodies, noting that Africa holds enormous potential for organic food production.
He, therefore, implored investors in the agribusiness value chain to focus attention in Africa on organic food production instead of genetically modified food in other climes.
Onyeagwu also noted that as a socially responsible organisation, Zenith Bank continues to promote impact investment in Africa. For example, the bank has maintained strong advocacy for investment in Africa through its flagship sponsorship of “Inside Africa” on CNN for 16 consecutive years, which is helping to highlight the immense creativity and talent that abound on the continent and the enormous investment opportunities on the continent of Africa.
He also said that the bank leverages its in-depth knowledge of the African market to guide investors and hedge their exposures.
According to him, the bank has been on a steady Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) investment journey, which started with ESG integration as a business strategy as well as being a signatory to the Nigerian Principles for Sustainable Banking and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Responsible Banking.
For its efforts, Onyeagwu noted that Zenith Bank received recognition as the “Best Company in Promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Africa” at the 2020 Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAS).
In his call to action, Onyeagwu called for a paradigm shift, noting that Africa is a work in progress, and leaders in the public and private sector should not despair. He encouraged leaders to champion the changes they want to see, pay close attention to responsibility and accountability in leadership.
He also called for the de-risking of Africa through reforms, improved ease of doing business, respect for the rule of law and sanctity of contract, and human capital development.
Onyeagwu expressed satisfaction with the several reforms of the Federal Government of Nigeria, including the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (RITC), the establishment of the Rural Electrification Agency’s (REA) Rural Electrification Fund (REF), Infraco Plc, and several other development finance initiatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He also noted that several African countries, including Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda, are recording massive improvements in the ease of doing business, leveraging digital technology to simplify government processes and deepen the financial system.
He implored Africans to see themselves as brothers and sisters, say no to xenophobia, and speak with one voice and not with discordant tunes.
Onyeagwu implored the rest of the world to look at Africa as an investment destination that guarantees optimal returns. He noted that Africa has profound talent that abounds across the world and contributes to the development of these climes, and this should be reciprocated.
He encouraged Africans to imbibe the spirit of UBUNTU – “I AM BECAUSE YOU ARE” since we are all connected in humanity.
Zenith Bank is Nigeria’s largest and one of Africa’s largest financial institutions by tier-1 capital, with shareholders’ funds in excess of NGN1.1 trillion ($2.64 billion) as of December 31, 2020. The bank is a clear leader in the Nigerian financial space, with several firsts in the deployment of innovative products and solutions that ensure convenience, speed and safety of transactions.
The Emerging Business Intelligence & Innovation (EBII) Group is independent specialist compliance and global risk management consultancy firm offering education and expert consulting services to entities in the West seeking opportunities for diversification and growth in emerging markets and Africa.
The Group supports African entities and governments with their risk management and compliance requirements and delivers practical and genuine support to firms by providing a comprehensive and relevant assessment of risks, enabling them to successfully navigate their risks and ensure adherence to their compliance requirements.
Global Banking Sector Grows 40% Reviving Pandemic Losses in Just 12 Months
In 2020, the global banking sector took a hit following the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which was reflected in the overall market capitalization. However, with the ongoing global recovery, the banking industry has regained most of the losses incurred during the health crisis.
According to data acquired by Finbold, in just 12 months between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021, the global banking sector’s market cap has surged 39.62%, adding €2.1 trillion from €5.3 trillion to €7.4 trillion. On the path to recovery, the market cap slightly plunged in 2020 Q3 to €5.2 trillion before gaining 17.3% the next quarter.
Among the Western European banks, Spain’s BBVA bank recorded the highest total shareholder return rate at 19.7% between April 2021 – July 2021, followed by Société Générale from France at 13.8%, while Banco Santander, also from Spain, ranks third at 12.1%. United Kingdom’s Barclays is the worst performer with a TSR of -8%. Data on the global banking sector’s market cap is provided by Banking Hub.
How banking sector sustained growth
The registered market capitalization is supported by the large-scale reopening of economies due to the vaccine rollout. Additionally, the banks, especially from major economies like the United States and Europe, have reaped from policies meant to cushion the economy from the adverse effects of the pandemic. Notably, the decisions by most banks to retain a low-interest-rate environment has been beneficial to banks.
Worth noting is that during the pandemic, banks found themselves in a tight spot. Historically, the banking sector has been considered the custodian of the economy but the pandemic also plunged the banks into a crisis. The banking sector’s profits were adversely affected considering they are bound to the business cycle and interest rates.
At the same time, banks also put in place measures like approaching loans with caution due to uncertainty in repaying which directly impacted profits. However, banks were tapped to facilitate the distribution of stimulus packages boosting their capital reserves in return.
Worth pointing out is that institutions like the European Central Banks allowed banks to continue using their capital buffers flexibly with a planned extension until 2022. With such moves helping banks sustain growth, it eliminates the worry of straining capital buffers while the health crisis is still impacting the banks’ balance sheets.
Furthermore, the crisis highlighted the need for banks to keep huge reserves of capital that can be activated in the wake of economic turmoil. Although most banks have historically relied on assets for future cushion, a crisis like the coronavirus calls for more capital because selling assets in such an environment is challenging.
Besides the policies, the banking sector recovery was partly aided by existing operational risk management arrangements. The pandemic tested all financial market participants and most leading banks successfully invoked business continuity plans. The plans ensured that the financial markets continued to run smoothly and orderly.
The sector’s recovery has also been accelerated by other factors like the increased adoption of pre-pandemic trends like digitalization and sustainability. Digitization of operations has been backed by consumers who are willing to conduct transactions online. At the same time, the digital shift has presented a competitive factor in the sector, with institutions that had established online presence benefiting the most.
Notably, the recovery was at some point under threat during the third quarter of 2020 amid concerns of the pandemic’s second wave. However, the sector sustained the gains with the rollout of the vaccine. Furthermore, moving into 2021, the industry appears not to be bothered by the Delta variant.
The future of the banking sector
By sustaining the market capitalization for two consecutive quarters, it can be assumed that the banking sector response to the health crisis is bearing fruits. However, it is still early to determine if the recovery is sustainable.
The rally will be tested, especially when central banks eliminate all the policies meant to cushion the economy. However, in the long run, banks will have to tailor their operations towards changing consumer behaviour.
How Stanbic IBTC is Transforming Nigeria’s Trade Landscape
Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, has reiterated its commitment to fostering international trade and help the nation actualise its economic growth and development goals.
The Bank said it will continue to fine-tune its three-pronged approach to facilitating trade activities for clients. These are the development of bespoke financial solutions to help boost trade for clients; sponsorship of relevant trade shows that bring together stakeholders in global trade, including exporters and importers; and organisation of seminars and workshops to provide clients and other stakeholders with industry insights and enlighten them on global trade opportunities.
“Our goal is to become the ‘go-to’ Bank as far as global trade is concerned, with emphasis on Africa-China trade. This approach is of immense value to our clients and will help us achieve our fundamental purpose, which is to drive Nigeria’s growth,” Chief Executive Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC, Wole Adeniyi, said.
In line with this resolve, Stanbic IBTC organised a webinar on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The webinar themed: ‘AfCFTA State of Play: Understanding Potential and Maximising Opportunities for the Customer’, emphasised Stanbic IBTC’s readiness to leverage the trade opportunities of the AfCFTA agreement to unlock business opportunities for its clients in the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector as well as its corporate clients.
In 2019, Stanbic IBTC launched its Africa China Agent Proposition (now called Africa China Trade Solutions – ACTS) to boost trade transactions between Africa (Nigeria) and Asia, especially China, and help customers consummate the best business deals without having to travel to China.
According to Stanbic IBTC, ACTS will give customers exclusive access to an array of exporters in China through an accredited agent, Zhejiang International Trading Supply Chain Co Ltd, also known as Guamao.
Stanbic IBTC has held various fora as part of its sensitisation drive on ACTS and the currency swap agreement between Nigeria and China. These fora provided insight on how best to help clients and businesses leverage the opportunity and assess the impact of the Chinese economy on trade in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
According to Wole, these workshops were geared towards deepening trade connections with the Chinese business community, thereby stimulating strong trade and business ties between Africa, with a special focus on Nigeria and China.
Stanbic IBTC Bank was a platinum sponsor of the 2021 Global Trade Review (GTR) West Africa Conference themed ‘Connecting the Region’s Trade Experts. The GTR West Africa Conference is an annual regional event for trade discussions and networking among leading practitioners in trade, export, and commodity finance to strategically explore the latest developments, strategies, and solutions needed to drive growth.
Experts have continued to commend Stanbic IBTC on this bold approach to educate its clients and investors about the benefits of AfCFTA, the Nigeria China currency swap deal, and the ACTS proposition, all geared towards helping clients unlock business opportunities.
Arise B.V., Equity Investor, Invests US$75 Million in Ecobank
A leading investor in financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Arise B.V. has made US$75 million perpetual non-cumulative AT1 capital investment in Ecobank Transnational Incorporated.
In a statement signed by Adenike Laoye, the Group Head of Corporate Communications, Ecobank, the fund will help optimise and improve ETI’s Tier 1 capital.
“This Basel III compliant instrument is the first AT1 instrument issued by ETI and a landmark transaction in the sub-Saharan Africa region. The investment will optimize and improve ETI’s Tier 1 capital by US$75 million,” the bank stated.
The latest investment showed Arise, an existing shareholder of Ecobank, has confidence in the bank’s future given the series of support and commitment the leading equity investor has provided to Ecobank in recent years.
Speaking on the new investment, Ade Ayeyemi, Group Chief Executive Officer of ETI, stated: “This investment by Arise is a testament to continued support and confidence from our shareholders; their commitment to, and belief in our strategy which we remain focused on executing to deliver value to our shareholders and excellence to our customers. Indeed, in addition to improving our double leverage ratio, it is also a good boost for the firm and its staff”.
Deepak Malik, Chief Executive Officer of Arise stated: “ETI is our primary banking investment in Francophone West Africa and Anglophone West Africa. We are very supportive of ETI’s growth ambitions and its ability to increase financial services to Agri, SMEs & retail customers. Our investment will also strengthen the balance sheet of ETI and provide additional risk capital”.
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