'key player'

Stanislas Zézé, the West African face of financial rating

By Nadoun Coulibaly

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Posted on June 14, 2023 11:25

 © Stanislas Zézé (photo: supplied)
Stanislas Zézé (photo: supplied)

In 15 years, Ivorian entrepreneur Stanislas Zézé has managed to make Bloomfield Investment Corporation a model in the sub-region. His strategy, based on risk assessment in local currencies, is one of the reasons for his success story, which we examine here.

There is no time to rest when you’re running at the pace of the growth of your agency, Bloomfield Investment Corporation (BIC). Stanislas Zézé, founder of the first rating agency in West Africa, inaugurated the seventh edition of the Côte d’Ivoire Country Risk Conference (CRC) in front of political and business personalities on 4 May in Abidjan. He was the centre of all the attention during the event , which is “important for Côte d’Ivoire”, in the words of Adama Coulibaly, the Ivorian minister of the economy.

He then flew to Lomé, the Togolese capital, before heading to Conakry, Guinea, with the same objective: to discover opportunities.

Zézé is a pioneer, now embodying the African face of financial rating, not unlike the Ivorian Jean-Luc Konan (boss of Cofina) in mesofinance, or the Burkinabe Idrissa Nassa (CEO of Coris Bank) in finance.

Better still, “Stanislas Zézé has become a key player in financial rating[s] in West Africa, but also in Central Africa. My Congolese counterpart has confirmed to me that Bloomfield will soon be doing a country risk assessment of DR Congo”, said Coulibaly.

Listening to African realities

“The appreciation of the bosses of the sub-region is quite unanimous when it comes to describing the CEO of Bloomfield. He has been able to convince political and economic decision-makers, and has been able to innovate with, for example, these annual country risk rating conferences, which has enabled him to conquer a market that was previously the preserve of international agencies, such as Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Ratings,” says Burkinabe businessman Abdoulaye Kouafilann Sory, head of Fidelis Finances.

Stanislas Zézé has succeeded in making his way in a sector initially dominated by large Western firms

“To achieve this, Zézé has adapted and contextualised the practice of financial rating to African realities, while remaining within the quality standards of a financial rating. He has done a remarkable job, based on pedagogy. This is the kind of entrepreneur we need.”

For Cameroonian banker Olivier Dadjeu Kengne, head of Smart-Link Capital, an investment bank specialising in supporting real estate investors, “Stanislas Zézé has succeeded in making his way in a sector initially dominated by large Western firms”.

Since its creation in 2007, BIC has enabled a better assessment of the risks of African economies, thanks to its approach based on ratings in local currencies. In tune with the realities of the continent and the expectations of African decision-makers, Zézé nonetheless defends his independence and the rigour of his work, which has enabled the agency to become a key reference leader. As the head of Bloomfield pointed out in an interview with us in 2014, “the most valuable asset of a rating agency is its credibility”.

An inseparable duo

However, this was not always a sure thing. “When I wanted to launch the Bloomfield project, the only person who believed in me was my wife, Jeanne. She encouraged me to go for it,” says the financier in his autobiography, The Man with the Red Socks, published in August 2022 (and co-written with his compatriot, the journalist and writer Pacôme Christian Kipré). An outward sign of his fighting and dynamic side, the BIC CEO is indeed famous for always wearing flamboyant red socks.

Zézé and his wife Jeanne, a personal development coach, are an inseparable duo and share the same vision of business. “Bloomfield has helped me understand that I am capable of doing what I want to do and, above all, that we are capable of creating an ecosystem ourselves. For me, this is the success of a life project,” says the entrepreneur.

As UEMOA countries make increasing use of financial markets, the issue of credit risk in West Africa is more than ever at the heart of the news. BIC is now solicited by some 20 states and 100 companies to evaluate their capacity to repay in their own currency.

The agency’s clients include countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Senegal, Niger, and Togo, as well as regional and pan-African groups, such as Ecobank, Bank of Africa (BOA), Société Générale Côte d’Ivoire, and Palmci.

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