The 27th Annual General Shareholders Meeting of the Pan-African multilateral financial institution, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) held at its headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on June 14, was perhaps the shortest and most effective in recent years. The decisions taken at the meeting were significant. Of great significance was the unanimous decision of shareholders to vote and reappoint Prof. Benedict Okey Oramah, the incumbent President of the bank, for another five-year term. He was first elected as Afreximbank President in September 2015. He was the Executive Vice President in charge of Business Development and Corporate Banking from 2008-2015. Undoubtedly, his reappointment is unmistakably a testament to his hard work, competency, and uncommon ideas that have repositioned the bank to compete in the global market.
His reappointment is also good news for Nigeria. Prof. Oramah, from Anambra State, has eminently distinguished himself in Africa and the corporate world. It is laudable that the resolution to reappoint him for another term was without dissent from the shareholders that include African governments, African private and institutional investors, as well as non-African investors.
In fact, the resolution for his reelection was moved by two outstanding shareholders – Messrs Stefan-Luis Francois Nalletamby, who is a Director representing Class ‘A’ shareholders – and Kee Chonghi Kwong Wing, a Director, representing Class ‘B’ shareholders. Also, the shareholders endorsed the performance of the bank during Oramah’s first tenure. The 2019 audited account of the bank was unanimously approved as well as the proposal to raise an additional $500million in equity within the Afreximbank’s current strategic plan dubbed “IMPACT 2021-Africa Transformed.” The approval to raise additional equity was in recognition of the fact that the $1billion earlier authorised to be mobilised had almost been fully raised.
It is good that Oramah knows that reward for hard work is more work. Therefore, he has given assurance that with the support of the shareholders, the bank will remain well capitalised throughout his second tenure and beyond, while efforts will be made to diversify the sources of equity. Under him too, the bank’s development focus will remain unchanged. During his first term, he restructured the bank and got the approval of the board to disburse over $30billion in support of African trade, half of that amount ($15billion) was channelled towards financing and promoting intra-African trade. Oramah knows what it takes to turn a multilateral financial institution around.
While the tasks ahead are enormous, there is no doubt that Oramah is determined and committed to tackle them and get things done. On his vision for the bank in the next five years, Oramah revealed that his ultimate goal would be the realisation of Africa’s strategic ambition to create an integrated market. According to him, “we want an Africa where the foundations of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) are laid expeditiously so that the 84,000 kilometres of borders that have divided us for ages can begin to come down.”
He also stressed that AfCFTA would “drive the industrialisation of Africa, support the emergence of regional value chains that will turn Africa’s creative and cultural assets into engines of growth, create jobs for the continent’s youths, convey respect for Africans wherever they may be, and better prepare the continent to compete more effectively in the global markets.”
The bank under his leadership plans to double intra-Africa trade financing so that by the end of his tenure, it will constitute no less than 40 per cent of the bank’s total assets, with aggregate disbursement on a revolving basis, exceeding $30billion.
We recall that since 1994, a year after it was founded to finance and promote intra-Africa and extra-Africa trade, the bank has approved more than $67billion in credit facilities for African businesses, including $7.2billion in 2018 alone. By the end of 2018, the bank’s total assets exceeded $13.4billion. It has been highly rated by reputable global rating agencies like Moody’s and Fitch. Above all, we urge the Afreximbank helmsman to steady the ship, and increase the fortunes of the bank. We wish him a successful second, five-year tenure.