BrandArena: How Former Barclays Chief Executive Is Building Africa’s Largest Bank

Thursday 30 April 2015

How Former Barclays Chief Executive Is Building Africa’s Largest Bank

Having resigned in July 2012 over the Libor scandal, former Barclays chief executive Mr Bob Diamond has since ventured into the opportunities in Africa. His mission is to build the leading pan-African bank and shake up the continent’s existing banks. This statement reflects on his eagle eyes for great investment and his style of management that he is here for real business.

Mr Diamond set up an investment firm Atlas Mara in 2013 in partnership with Dubai-based African billionaire businessman Ashish Thakkar, which reportedly raised $325m to invest in African banks.

In just three years, it appears Atlas Mara is on its way to build Africa's largest bank having bought three banks.

“When I think about Africa, I think about the opportunities,” says Mr Diamond in an interview with The Herald at the FT Banking Summit in London held early this year. “The demographics are phenomenal. The average age in sub-Saharan Africa is 18; the average age in the US is 38. There will be more babies born this year in Nigeria than in all of western Europe. There are 52 cities in Africa with more than 1 million people; that’s the same as in western Europe. Over the next 20 years we will see more than 50 percent of sub-Saharan Africans living in cities.

“So the opportunity in Africa is great, but when you pair that with the opportunity in financial services it changes [even more] dramatically. China is a great economy as well but financial services in China are consolidated, they trade at very high multiples and, quite frankly, they are closed to foreign investment. In Africa financial services are disaggregated, they trade at reasonable valuations and they are looking for foreign investment. In fact, majority positions are welcomed. So it is a very different environment in Africa for financial services than it is in virtually any other of the emerging economies”, he said.

Fast foward to April, emerging reports states that Atlas Mara is in talks to also acquire a second Rwandan bank, as part of his plan to shake up lending across Africa.

If the deal goes ahead, Atlas Mara will acquire a 45 per cent stake in Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR), on an investment of $22.5m (£14.7m).

BPR has 191 branches and 1,370 staff, with $227m of assets, $155m in loans and $181m in deposits.

The aim is to merge the newly acquired bank with BRD Commercial Bank, another Rwandan lender which it bought last year.

“We think that there are 10 to 12 key markets for us over time. As of today we are in seven of those markets. Each country we are in we are going to drive the performance in that country to make sure we are either in the top three banks in that country or quite frankly make the tough decision to exit.” Diamond told The Street in an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Milken Global Conference.

“Over the course of the next two to three years we will begin to integrate all of those strong countries into one integrated sub-Saharan Africa banking operation. One brand, one technology.”

Well, the question among the inventors circle in the continent is, can Mr. Diamond really build Africa's largest bank? 

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