This month I would like to dedicate my editorial to pay homage to a group of people whose contribution to Africa's economic evolution has been tremendous but whose achievements have often gone under the radar.
This very wide and very diverse collection of people are all those who are involved in the continent's banking and finance sector. It is also an apposite time to do so. Last month, our sister publication African Banker held its 13th annual African Banker Awards in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea as part of the African Development Bank's AGM activities. (See p. 38.)
I have been privileged to be the founding editor of that publication --which made its first appearance in May 2007--for most of its life. During this time I have met and interacted with a host of fascinating men and women whose stories have sometimes seemed stranger than fiction.
They have come from an astonishing variety of backgrounds but they have all been driven by their passion and love for the sector, to which they have dedicated their working lives.
Looking back to when we first decided to publish a dedicated banking and finance magazine--and even further back to my experiences travelling around the continent--I am astonished that so much has been achieved over such a short period.
Today, when I contemplate the winners of this year's Banker Awards--all world-class individuals and institutions--I can't help marvelling at the fact that only three decades or so ago, African banking, banks for Africans and run by Africans--hardly existed.
Yes, there were banks but almost all were subsidiaries of foreign banks servicing mainly foreign companies and expatriates. African companies and individuals were not particularly welcomed. Opening an account or attempting to open an account was a very big deal and you had to furnish a whole raft of references, including personal 'good character' endorsements just to get past the door.
African companies, even some fairly sizeable ones, dealt exclusively in cash. I recall a very interesting interlude during the 1980s when on my travels in Nigeria, I fell in with a businessman and his guard on his trips to buy and sell goods in the northern part of the country.
He was a jovial man, about five foot tall and with a respectable paunch; his constant escort was a Senegalese giant who was seven foot tall if he was an inch and as wide as a small car. He carried a long staff with a metal tip at the end and the scars on his face gave him a ferocious...