His name has been circulating in West African financial circles for several days. Kenyan Jeremy Awori is set to succeed Ade Ayeyemi as head of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) – Africa Business+ was able to confirm the news on 8 September.
After a recruitment process conducted by the international firm Egon Zehnder, the choice of the board of Ecobank, which must still be validated by the regulator, is the 51-year-old Kenyan Jeremy Awori. Contacted, the Lomé-based bank did not wish to comment.
Recruited in 2015, the Nigerian Ade Ayeyemi will leave his position at the end of this year. Awori will succeed him at the start of 2023.
Beat the odds
Formerly of Citigroup, Ade Ayeyemi has worked for the past eight years to turn around the pan-African group present in 33 countries on the continent.
He took up his post in a context still marked by emblematic Arnold Ekpe, in 2012, and by the difficult governance crisis that led to the abrupt departure of Ekpe’s successor, Thierry Tanoh.
Ayeyemi, a specialist in corporate banking, inherited a group whose net profit had fallen by 73% in 2015 and which had suffered a net loss the following year (205 million dollars). As he hands over the reins, Ayeyemi will point to the fact that the institution has posted a net profit of $262m for the 2021 financial year (of which $40m was distributed as a dividend).
While many analysts thought that his successor would be chosen internally, to ensure some continuity and capitalise on the newfound stability, the choice of Awori came as a surprise. Until now the managing director of Absa Bank Kenya (formerly Barclays Africa Group), a position from which he officially resigned on 8 September, Awori will have to definitively turn the page on the years of governance crisis.
Lagging behind in the Kenyan market
The arrival of a Kenyan at the head of ETI should enable it to truly establish its status as a pan-African bank. Deeply rooted in West Africa, the bank – whose results have long been mainly driven by Nigeria – has always been headed a West African. And it has so far struggled to establish itself in East Africa.
When it arrived in Kenya in 2008, Ecobank did not succeed in becoming one of the market leaders. Its subsidiary is a medium-sized bank, ranking nineteenth in terms of profitability, with a pre-tax profit of KSh612m in 2021.
Born in Nairobi in the early 1970s to a British mother and a Kenyan father, Awori knows this part of the continent well. He grew up there before studying pharmacy in the UK (at the University of Manchester) and then finance in Canada (McGill). He also spent most of his banking career there: at the age of 28, after a first experience in Canada, he became the head of the retail banking business of Standard Chartered Bank Kenya.
He then went on to head Standard Chartered’s Tanzanian subsidiary, before taking over as head of Absa in 2013. Under his leadership, Absa has grown its pre-tax profit from KSh11.13bn in 2013 to Kshs 15.5 billion by 31 December 2021.
“Jeremy has been instrumental in the growth and transformation of our business over the past decade. Under his outstanding leadership, Absa Bank Kenya PLC has become a modern company that all stakeholders can be proud of,” Charles Muchene, chairman of the board of the Absa subsidiary, said in the statement announcing the Kenyan’s departure.
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