Afreximbank will increase trade financing in Uganda - Kiyingi

Tuesday October 8 2019

Afreximbank president Prof. Benedict Oramah

Afreximbank president Prof. Benedict Oramah (left) and president Yoweri Museveni sign an agreement to host a branch in Kampala at State House in Entebbe last month. Establishing Afreximbank’s Branch Office in Kampala sets the stage for deepening the Bank’s operation across the 11 East African countries under its jurisdiction. Courtesy Photo 

By Martin Lurther Oketch

What should we expect in Uganda following the establishment of the Afreximbank here?
Now that the Afreximbank is opening a regional branch in Uganda, it is a huge achievement for the bank and Uganda because there is going to be increased access to trade finance here for private companies to facilitate their activities, buy more and sell more products for exports. So, Uganda should strengthen its trade such that it can trade more with its neighbours in the East African region, the rest of Africa and the world.

How will you expand the bank’s footprint in Uganda?
Afreximbank already has few projects it is financing in Uganda. We hope that by opening a regional branch office here in Kampala, the number of projects is going to increase. We are also going to increase in trade financing since the Afreximbank is interested in promoting trade in the region and the continent.

What is the asset base of the Afreximbank?
The Afreximbank has fundamentally and phenomenally grown in the recent years. Currently, the bank’s asset book is approximately $13 billion which is incredible. When thinking about the bank, it started from point zero. The bank is growing and it has been part of several structured finance transactions in the continent.

According to rankings, you were named as one of the 2018 Most Influential People of African Descent under 40. How did you attain this?
I am a finance lawyer by background; I have had experience on three different continents and working at the Afreximbank was my dream job in a way. Since I was at the university, I always wanted to work in the development space in Africa. By working at the Afreximbank bank, I have been able to use my financial skills in the development context.

What has been your priority since you joined Afreximbank?
Since I’m a finance lawyer with experience in finance, my priority is to build a world-class legal function at the bank so that the bank can effectively deliver its development mandate.

How will the African Continental Free Trade Area impact your business?
The importance of the Africa Free Trade Area cannot be under overstated. It is an amazing achievement for the continent. It will fundamentally affect the business of the bank! And I say this for two reasons: First, the bank has been instrumental in galvanising support for this Free Trade Area. Secondly as a trade finance bank, one of the critical pillars that underpin our mandate is promoting intra-Africa trade.

As a continent, Africa trades the least with itself. Every other continent trades more with itself. So, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area is the first step to making sure that can happen. It is our view that African countries trade amongst each other.

As a trade finance institution, in order to increase trade within Africa, it is critical that trade develops within the African region. We should not see this as the end but the beginning.

The politicians have done their job; they have come together, negotiated and signed this agreement. They have also ratified it and it is now in place. So, the private sector should take advantage of this agreement and trade between each other and use the bank as a key source of support in that area.

Afreximbank will be relocating its head office from Nairobi to Kampala. What does this move mean for Uganda?
The African Afreixmbank will be opening its first East Africa regional office branch in Kampala.

By way of background, the Afreximbank is headquartered in Cairo Egypt. We already have a regional office based in the Anglophone West African regional office based in Abuja in Nigeria, Francophone regional office based in Abidjan the Southern Africa region office in Harare in Zimbabwe.

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Currently, there is nothing in East African region. So by the bank opening its branch here, this is a step; a huge achievement for the bank, Uganda and the East African region. This will mean that Uganda and the region will have dedicated people on the ground to identify the trade-related needs in this region which are not being addressed and financing needs.

What are development needs in this region and what related infrastructure could the bank help facilitate in funding?
We see this as a portal for increasing Foreign Direct Investments in the country/region and helping private corporations in accessing funding in relation to trade.

Afreximbank has positioned itself as a trade information portal for African businesses. How will this portal close Africa’s data and finance gap?

Afreximbank has positioned itself as a trade finance bank. We take a very broad view on that development mandate. We do traditional trade finance, have direct lending we do on lending to projects, free export financing and we are working a lot through local African financial companies, who then on lend to trading companies to facilitate business owners. We are also in projects like roads, ports, and airport.

We need to look at the entire trade chain infrastructure, because there is no point financing trade when the companies don’t have energy, so we need to ensure there is power in the market as well as transport.

You have had a good track record of management right after university. How did you get to the top?

This is very difficult question! I think you can’t underestimate hard work; it is critical I think to any success. But I would say hard work is just the beginning. The things that helped me succeed as a finance lawyer and an executive manager is a combination of paying attention to the details, technical expertise and building relationships.

As a founding member of the Tate Modern Museum’s African Art Acquisition Committee, what are your views on Africa’s wealth in art?

I am incredibly passionate about African contemporary arts and I think in terms of what Africa has to offer to the world are art and culture. I’m of the view that African art is at renaissance period, I guess it (art) being reorganised by many people internationally at the art fares and art auctions.

So, I would like to see Africans investing in African contemporary art.

Africa Capital Market
One of the biggest problems of the Africa Capital Market is building liquidity because it is not simple to have liquidity. In building liquidity, you need to have companies that need to list and you need to have investors who don’t just buy those listed securities but also sell. That is how you create liquidity.

Many African capital market struggles to attract companies to list because the companies can obtain funding from other sources. To be fair, the process of listing is quiet. Secondly, you often have a scenario where many investors buy security as a pension; they buy and they don’t sell! So it really needs two pronged strategies to encouraging more companies to come to the market.

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