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2017 Top African Finance Ministers

Comments (0) Africa, Economy, Politics


Economic and finance ministries from West and East African have set the standard for 2017’s API. Ten countries from the region have mastered macroeconomic balance with growth rates above 5% that outpace their demographic growth. Burkina Faso topped the list with 53%, followed by Senegal with 52%, Tanzania with 48%, Ethiopia with 47%, Kenya with 46%, Rwanda with 45%, Niger and Guinea with 43%, Cote d’Ivoire with a 42% growth rate, and Togo with 41%.

The API was extended in 2017 to include all African countries, instead of only those in the CFA zone, or the central and west regions, as was the case in previous editions. API 2017 also saw the inclusion of a new category for evaluation: the digital financial infrastructure worth 40% of a country’s mark, along with endogenous factors 30%, and institutional and fiscal frames, worth 30%. Although growth was substantial last year, financial website Financial Afrik warns that unless African countries can maintain growth of over 10% for over a decade there will not be any major development in the country.

Leading the pack

Topping the list of Africa’s best finance ministers is Burkina Faso’s Minister of Economy, Finance and Development Rosine Sori-Coulibaly. In office since January 2016, Sori-Coulibaly has been working to reduce the weight of current expenditure in the state budget, and has also allowed the public greater access to small business loans. She is joined by Senegal’s Amadou Ba, who brought about an increased cycle of growth garnered by the country since 2014. Third on the list is Philip Mpango, the appointed minister of finance in Tanzania since 2015. Mpango continues to create structural reforms in the country to finance free education and complete the nationalization of precious stones.

Other ministers of note include Ethiopia’s Abraham Tekeste, who is in charge of the implementation of a five-year-plan in the country to display a GDP growth of 11% per year. Over this period, industrial growth is set at 24% per year. Minister of Finance in Kenya Henry K. Rotich is at the root of several in-depth reforms in the East African country. Advocating for diversification, Rotich faces the challenge of financing Kenya’s public external debt. Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Claver Gatete has distinguished himself in the rationalization of current expenditures, the implementation of innovative policies and the facilitation of procedures for economic operators.

Implementing policies

Rounding out the top ten is Niger’s Hassoumi Masaoudou, who has been minister of finance since 2016 and has the challenge of financing the Economic and Social Development Plan for Niger from 2017 to 2021. In a tense security environment Financial Afrik reports the first year of the plan has been quite successful. Guinea’s Malado Kaba has inherited several major infrastructure projects and is the first Guinean appointed minister of finance to obtain satisfactory results in regard to funding. Former head of the Ivorian Treasury, Cote d’Ivoire’s Adama Kone has reconciled the imperative of controlling the budget with the need for growth. The current cocoa crisis has not broken this balance and Ivorian fundamentals remain strong. Minister of Economy and Finance in Togo since 2015, Sani Yaya’s great challenge remains to restructure the country’s debt and to mobilize funds for development programs. In the two years as finance minister, Yaya’s results have awarded him respect.

Digital Financial Infrastructure

The API identifies four determinants that favor the construction of digital financial infrastructure in African countries. Innovation centers, the organization of public dialogues on financial and regulatory technologies, a national tool for digital verification of identity and the creation of a digital environment secure enough to experiment with the offer of innovative financial services. Both Kenya and Senegal scored highly in this area with both countries developing incubators of technological innovation, such as, spaces for co-creation between entrepreneurs and accelerators of enterprise. Also standing out in this area are Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania and Togo, thanks to the organization of public dialogues on the future of finance, financial regulation and inclusion.

According to Financial Afrik, Africa is improving in terms of economic and political governance, however in terms of transparency and institutional communication efforts must be made. Ministries of Economy and Finance are responsible for strengthening competitiveness between domestic and foreign companies, but at the same time, they need to ensure consumers are protected.    

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Kenyan finance minister raises budget deficit forecast

Comments (0) Africa, Latest Updates from Reuters, Politics

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya is aiming for a budget deficit of 9.3 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2016/17 and plans to borrow 150 billion shillings ($1.48 billion) from external sources, probably by selling international bonds, officials said on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Henry Rotich said in a budget speech the deficit would be 691.5 billion shillings ($6.9 billion).

Kamau Thuge, the principal secretary at the ministry of finance, later told Reuters that figure would be equivalent to 9.3 percent of GDP.

Rotich gave the 150 billion shilling borrowing figure at a post-budget news conference. “We are still looking at accessing capital markets by way of sovereign bonds, we are looking at export credit arrangements and also bilateral and syndicated loans,” he said.

In April the finance ministry said the actual deficit in fiscal year 2016/17, which starts on July 1, would probably be around 6.9 percent of GDP, because ministries often struggle to spend their allocations.

“The failure to consolidate the fiscal balance any faster will be of some concern to markets,” Standard Chartered economist Razia Khan said. “Kenya’s accumulation of external debt has outpaced its ability to generate faster export growth to repay this debt.”

But Rotich said Kenya’s public debt “remains sustainable”, with the net present value of public debt to GDP below 50 percent and posing a “low risk of debt distress” based on assessments by the government, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“We remain committed to bringing the fiscal deficit down gradually to below 4 percent of GDP in the medium term,” he added. In the 2015/16 fiscal year ending this month, the forecast deficit was 8.7 percent of GDP, but has since been revised down.

“Our target to generate 1 million new jobs remains,” Rotich said, adding that he expected the economy to grow 6 percent in calendar year 2016 and by 7 percent in the medium term, compared with 5.6 percent growth last year.

The minister also outlined measures to boost revenue collection, including the potential introduction of a presumptive tax for those in the informal sector, who usually fall under the radar of the revenue authority.

“If everybody paid their fair share of taxes we would be in a better position to lower tax rates,” Rotich told lawmakers.

Thuge told Reuters local borrowing would remain nearly constant at 3 percent of GDP, ensuring local interest rates would not be under pressure.


($1 = 101.0000 Kenyan shillings)


(Reporting by Duncan Miriri. Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Catherine Evans)


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Alamine Ousmane Mey: Cameroon’s economic mastermind

Comments (1) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Alamine Ousmane Mey

Cameroon’s Finance Minister has energized the country’s economy through reform, infrastructure developments and his own determination.

Cameroon’s Finance Minister, Alamine Ousmane Mey, has been lauded as a brilliant fiscal tactician, a shrewd manager and a facilitator of new business enterprises. Earlier this month, Mey was recognized as Finance Minister of the Year at the prestigious African Banker Awards 2016. The honor is well deserved. While not everyone will have heard of Mey, he is the mastermind driving Cameroon’s fast developing economy, and his recent award gives credit to an exceptional career.

Education and banking success

Born in Kousseri in 1966, Mey grew up in an upper-middle class family. He later gained a solid financial education by studying abroad in Germany, Belgium and Turkey. Mey studied electro-technical engineering alongside banking, which bestowed him with a keen understanding of modern economics.

Upon his return to Cameroon in 1993, Mey obtained a job with the CCEI Bank, which later evolved into Afriland First Bank. He rose swiftly through the ranks, and in 2003 he was appointed General Manager of Afriland First Bank, which was the only non-foreign owned private financial institution at the time. Mey quickly ushered in a new era of success at the company. Afriland had a key role in financing the Cameroonian economy and driving consumer spending. In 2010 the bank issued the equivalent to US$ 567m in credit, an astronomical amount by regional standards. Under his leadership the bank saw rapid growth, and quickly became one of the major banks in the region that still enjoys a strong international reputation to this day.

Government career

Mey’s successes at Afriland bank did not go unnoticed. In 2011 he was offered the role of Minister of Finance, despite no previous government experience. He quickly undertook a range of financial reforms which increased real term government revenues and cracked down on misspending. He also refocused government investment towards sustainable projects that have driven growth in the economy.

Mey has carefully borrowed money to finance key infrastructure developments outside the capacity of the government budget; this has been a particularly astute move, as the loans have been used to target under-developed sectors of the economy with high potential gains, both in monetary terms, and for the people of Cameroon. He highlighted his strategy saying, “Yes, we will borrow, but we will focus on life-changing projects.” In doing so, Cameroon has grown its economy, while comfortably servicing the loans which kick-started the process.

Lom Pangar Pipeline modification

Lom Pangar Pipeline modification

Mey has since has earned a reputation as an expert in putting together and overseeing ambitious projects incorporating multiple parties. One such example was the recent completion of the $86m Lom Pangar Pipeline modification. This complex infrastructure scheme was cost-shared between the Cameroonian government, the World Bank, and the contractor COTCO who undertook the project. The scheme has been heralded as a great success as it was finished safely, on time and under budget, while indirectly benefiting thousands of local Cameroonians. Christian Lenoble the general manager of COTCO, praised the efficiency of the working relationship: “The collaboration between the project and government was superb. To me, it was a key factor in our success in completing our work on time and within budget.”

Now versus then

Before Mey took the helm, Cameroon’s growth stood at a middling 3.3% in 2010. Since Mey took over, the economy has grown year on year and is estimated to hit 5.5% for the financial year 2015. This performance is particularly impressive when considered against both international and regional trends. Many of the world’s nations have struggled to achieve any meaningful growth since the financial crisis. Similarly, many of Cameroon’s neighbors have posted disappointing growth figures in the years 2014 and 2015, largely due to falling global commodity prices or political instability. Cameroon has bucked both of these trends, thanks in part to its economic diversification. Initially, strong commodities exports allowed Cameroon to shrug off the worst of the global financial crisis, but Mey realized the economy was still vulnerable. Under his counsel, the government implemented diversification schemes to develop the construction, agriculture, transport and energy sectors. The fruition of these strategies has allowed Cameroon to largely sidestep the commodities crash, marking another success for the Minister of Finance.

No one would disagree that Cameroon still faces big challenges ahead, but Mey is not one to rest on his laurels. He is committed to meet a range of development targets set by the IMF, and given his past achievements, there is a very good chance of him doing so. Ultimately, the future of Cameroon’s economy appears to be in the strongest of hands.

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Maha Al-Ghunaim, CEO, Global Investment House

Comments (0) Featured, Leaders, Middle East

maha al ghunaim

Maha Al-Ghunaim, founder and CEO of Global Investment House, is a pioneer in the world of Arab finance

In the world of Arab banking and finance, Maha Al-Ghunaim is something of a pioneer as the founder and CEO of one of the Middle East’s largest investment companies, Global Investment House. As a women in a male-dominated industry, both in the Middle East and beyond, working in a country where only 15% of women are in the workforce, she is also something of a rarity.

Building Global Investment House

Al-Ghunaim trained in mathematics, graduating from the San Francisco State University in 1982, and has worked in asset management and investment banking for the over 30 years since. Straight out of university she joined the large government-owned investment company, the Kuwait Investment Authority. And she comments: “At that time they really took care of young Kuwaitis who were entering the workforce… I started from the bottom and learned how things are done and gradually moved my way up the ladder.”

She would work there for many years, before taking positions at the now dissolved Kuwait Foreign Trading Contracting & Investment Co. and the Kuwait Investment Company.

In 1998, Al-Ghunaim launched Global Investments House with four colleagues, having spotted a gap in the Middle Eastern market for integrated solutions in brokerage, asset management, and investment banking. She says: “We understood that the capital markets in Kuwait lacked certain products and services and we capitalized on that.” Focused specifically on opportunities in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Middle East, the company chose to offer funds and investment products which were wholly new to the region, including bonds, index funds, fixed income funds, and private equity. The company also pushed research and development. “We widened the capital markets rather than everybody competing for the same slice – make the pie larger. We started to create very new funds and products,” comments Al-Ghunaim.

Global is now an investment bank with $3.7 billion under management, 210 employees, and offices in Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE. In 2008 the company became the first Kuwaiti firm to list on the London Stock Exchange, and was also listed on the Kuwait, Dubai and Bahrain bourses. “We started Global with a capital of $50 million in 1998 and, by mid-2008, we were trading at a $5 billion market cap,” comments Al-Ghunaim.

Regularly included in Forbes’ Top 100 Most Powerful Women, Al-Ghunaim is also a leading Arab businesswomen who chairs or sits on the boards of numerous companies and bodies including Kuwait’s National Industries Group, Kuwait University, Bank Muscat International, Bahrain, Baring Private Equity, Hong Kong, and Jehangir Siddiqui Capital Markets, Pakistan.

Steering Global through the financial crash

But the journey has not been easy. Having launched Global during the phenomenal Middle Eastern boom when oil prices were soaring, the company found itself significantly over-leveraged when the financial crisis hit in 2008. The company’s accumulated losses exceeded 75% of its capital in 2011, breaching Kuwaiti market rules, and the group’s shares were suspended from trading. One year later, it was forced to delist from the country’s stock exchange. “We found ourselves in the middle of liquidation disasters to pay off our debts and simultaneously organize Global International, regionally or locally. The financial crisis hit everyone around the globe… but also [there were] some mistakes that we encouraged in the way we do business,” she comments.

Al-Ghunaim successfully steered Global through this trying time, but needed to completely restructure the way the company did business. “We chose to be completely transparent with our clients, shareholders, and regulators throughout it all. This approach was unique in a culture that generally conceals problems, but we stuck to our commitment to being honest… Our earnings will be completely different from what we had before; it’s no longer about how much you make but about the quality of your earnings which provides sustainability and better valuation.” Now a risk-averse company, she reports that Global is well capitalized, debt-free, and profitable, and business is growing.

Committed to opportunities in the Middle East

Going forwards, her focus continues to lie in the Middle East, as committed as ever to the opportunities for Global in the region. “We create a strong bridge connecting buyers and sellers across the region. This is where we can really add value. Many investment houses offer similar expertise and experience in financial engineering and technical sides of the business, but our regional footprint, insight and placement power gives us an edge.”

Global is also continuing to pioneer in the region, adding new products to its range of billion dollar private equity funds. Two new products due to launch include a fund to invest in secondary private equity funds in the region, and a healthcare platform “which will allow investors to take advantage of the healthcare domain at the GCC-MENA-Turkey level”.

Al-Ghunaim also sees significant opportunities developing in education, consumer goods, and retail, “considering the demographics on the consumer-side, the strong inflow of expats, and the growing entrepreneurial spirit among SMEs”. And a spreading of bets across these sectors seems a particularly valuable strategy for Global considering the continued low oil prices in the region.

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