Bank One Ltd: From Africa, for Africa, with a Wealth of Regional Understanding

Head of International Banking: Carl Chirwa

Head of International Banking: Carl Chirwa

In its 12 years of existence, Mauritian-based Bank One has built a strong reputation — regionally, and way beyond its borders.

Leveraging the strength of a highly qualified team with decades of combined African experience, Bank One has firmly established its footprint on the continent, and mastered the complexity of its main markets. Along with coverage of new geographies in 2019 come enhanced value-added products to fulfil the needs of customers and meet rapidly changing market dynamics.

Onshore and offshore presence

Bank One is uniquely positioned as a strong and reliable banking partner “from Africa, for Africa”. Its two shareholders, Mauritian conglomerate CIEL Ltd and Kenya-based I&M Holdings, have an extended presence onshore that provides access to key African markets. From I&M’s extended branch network across East Africa to CIEL’s high potential and successful expansion in Madagascar, Bank One has fully embraced the opportunities arising from those markets.

Over the years, it has built strong capabilities to facilitate investment and support regional trade across Africa while serving the needs of customers onshore and offshore.

Bank One is considered today as the only Mauritian bank which can boast such a footprint across Africa and the Indian Ocean Region. Its onshore and offshore presence is a fundamental part of its exclusive value proposition, and the strong African credentials which enables it to create differentiated value for its clients.

Bank One’s international strategy has been pivotal to its success over recent years. “Our robust Trade Services proposition targets top-tier Sub-Saharan Africa Financial Institutions,” says Head of International Banking Carl Chirwa, “where we see excellent opportunity to create sustainable value and build long-lasting relationships with the commercial banks across the continent.

“Over the years, we have expanded our international banking team capabilities with a focus on strengthening our expertise in financial institutions, trade finance and relationships with Africa-focused DFIs. In 2018, I joined as a seasoned banker from Africa to oversee our International Banking activities and a Head of Financial Institutions, who also comes from Africa, was recruited a year later.

“Our real market insights and team diversity have been greatly beneficial as we set out to grow our international business coverage in Africa and beyond.”

Strong African credentials

In the last quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020, Bank One won significant Lead Arranger mandates totalling $100m from Central Banks in Sub-Saharan Africa. Bank One was able to structure and arrange short-term syndicated currency swap facilities to allow Central Banks in the region to enhance hard currency positions and support international trade transactions.

Bank One has gained enviable expertise in consistently executing transactions while adding value to banks in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. “As a result, our services are well-appreciated by the markets,” says Chirwa, “and we are considered a trusted and reliable partner.”

Supporting economic growth

Mauritius remains Sub-Saharan Africa’s preferred international financial centre, and the last investment-grade country in the region with the mandate to attract Foreign Direct Investment and Trade Flows into Africa.

Bank One takes advantage of the strong offshore credentials of the Mauritian jurisdiction and encourages global investors to use its transaction banking platform as a “hub-and-spoke” to safely springboard into Africa.

Geopolitical, regulatory, legal, tax and operating environments differ widely across the 54 countries that make up the African continent. Bank One accompanies foreign investors to help them navigate these challenges through its thought leadership and trusted advisor status. The bank promotes intra-Africa trade and facilitates economic growth in the region by providing trade and project finance to large corporates, and foreign currency solutions to financial institutions.

Bank One: Head Office

Bank One: Head Office

The African Continental Free Trade Area

Bringing together countries with a combined population of more than one billion people — and a combined GDP of more than $3.4tn — the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will be the world’s largest free-trade area allowing the free movement of business travellers, goods and investments.

Collectively, Africa needs to take crucial steps to boost trade, such as fostering skills for entrepreneurship and providing more access to credit and capital. Discussions at the recent World Economic Forum on Africa highlighted the need for business and political leaders to facilitate continental joint ventures to build strong production and manufacturing networks.

Intra-Africa trade has been historically low, and intra-African exports were 16.6 percent of total exports in 2017, compared with 68 percent in Europe and 59 percent in Asia. This points to significant untapped potential.

“As the African Union steps up on the implementation of the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT),” says Carl Chirwa, “we believe the newly created giant African market will be the next growth engine for the continent.

“Bank One is uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of this journey by facilitating cross-border payments and enabling trade financing and investment into Africa. We stand ready to support international investors, African Financial Institutions and regional corporates that will be taking centre-stage as the AfCFTA deepens and strengthens African trade over the coming months and years.”

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