Africa’s financial industry in Lomé seeks a ‘new balance’

By Joël Té-Léssia Assoko
Posted on Tuesday, 29 November 2022 16:42

Amir Ben Yahmed, CEO of Jeune Afrique Media Group, during the inaugural speech of AFIS 2022, on 28 November, in Lomé. © AFIS

The second edition of the Africa Financial Industry Summit brings together more than 600 leaders from the continental finance industry, amid major sectoral upheaval. The objective is to develop solutions so that the sector can collectively arm itself in the face of crises.

“This moment of recomposition hints at a transformed financial landscape. We will build this future together. I am addressing you with a strong conviction: the future of African finance will be built on close collaboration between public authorities and the financial sector,” said President Faure Gnassingbè at the opening of the Africa Financial Industry Summit on 28 November in Lomé, underlining the impact of the health, financial and energy crises on Africa’s financial sector.

The first physical edition of AFIS – 18 months after the inaugural edition organised online – comes a decade after the creation of the Africa CEO Forum, which has become a “platform for the private sector to become the engine of our growth and accelerate regional integration in Africa”, said Amir Ben Yahmed, managing director of the Jeune Afrique Media Group (JAMG).

Sustainable solutions

The aim of the Lomé summit, which brings together more than 600 leaders, bankers, insurers, regulators, central bank governors, public policy makers, innovators and fintech executives, is “to ensure that the debate’s conclusions provide sustainable and concrete solutions for a more resilient and globally competitive financial industry”, said JAMG’s boss.

Speaking to participants in the Hotel 2-Février’s auditorium, Togo’s head of state began by reiterating the “financial, security, climatic, inflationary and logistical” upheavals that are affecting African economies and the financial sector. He also emphasised his belief that “a new market balance will emerge and optimism will return”.

Gnassingbé also insisted on the willingness of his country – which hosts many African financial institutions, including Ecobank, BOAD, Oragroup, EBID and Cica-Re – to play its part alongside the private sector by promoting an attractive business environment and building a bank of viable projects. He added that it is willing to play its role as a referee in developing sustainable and responsible investments, as well as in promoting innovation.

We have to understand the basics of competition, but also the basics of cooperation.

For his part, Sergio Pimenta – the Africa vice-president of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), AFIS’ co-organiser – noted that “financial institutions can be drivers of resilience and catalysts for solutions to crises”. He cited, among other things, their contribution towards supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), trade finance, climate transition and digital transformation, as well as establishing two initiatives worth $1bn each, dedicated respectively to SME finance and trade recovery in several African economies.

State of mind

Several speakers welcomed recent achievements made in the field of intra-African trade and commerce, such as the establishment of the ALEP and PAPSS, aimed at facilitating investment across African exchanges and payments between countries on the continent respectively.

“The first barrier to trade is the mindset,” said Ade Ayeyemi, the Lomé-based Ecobank Group’s outgoing CEO.

The Nigerian leader, however, stressed the need for regulators to bring together fintechs, bankers, telecom operators and others to develop solutions to fulfil the needs of people and economies, which is also AFIS’ objective.

“We have to be aware of how much we can achieve if we work together. We have to understand the basics of competition, but also the basics of cooperation. Cooperation will take us to the finish line,” said the Ecobank boss.

Attractiveness

“Our hope is that everyone will leave this summit convinced that a demanding public-private dialogue will lead to the emergence of a roadmap capable of making the financial sector the engine of economic transformation that our continent needs,” said Yahmed.

One thing is certain: this meeting is taking place amid an atmosphere of optimism in the African financial industry. As Aristide Ouattara, Deloitte’s partner in Côte d’Ivoire, said: “65% of executives surveyed believe that the African financial industry is becoming more and more attractive.” AFIS ends on t29 November and will see several awards presented to the most cutting-edge players in banking and regulation.

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