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Interview: Bank Of Kigali CEO, Dr. Karusisi Speaks About COVID-19 Affects To Banking In Rwanda

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What has COVID-19 done to us? The recent World Bank report says the pandemic is dramatically increasing poverty in both rural and urban areas. The headcount poverty rate is likely to rise by 5.1% points (more than 550,000 people) in 2021, compared to the no-COVID scenario.

The increase in urban areas is greater than the increase in rural areas, the report says. Lockdowns, and other measures, which were critical to limiting infections, sharply curtailed economic activities.

GDP in real terms fell by 3.6% (y-o-y) in the third quarter of 2020, following a 12.4% contraction in the second quarter. The government expects that GDP will fall by 0.2% for 2020, compared to a projected expansion of 8% before the COVID-19 outbreak.

While the pandemic affected all major sectors, education and Rwandan strategic sectors (travel and hospitality) declined the most.

For the banning sector, the Central Bank introduced an extended lending facility to support banks facing liquidity shortfalls, and other factors.

Banks remained in sound condition, based on the share of non-performing loans in their portfolios and capital risk-weighted assets ratio, but newly approved loans were 9.2% lower in October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

There is a view that large corporations have not been affected that much. Rwanda’s leading Bank, Bank of Kigali (BK), would be an ideal template to assess real effects of the pandemic.

BK’s CEO, Dr. Diane Karusisi spoke to Taarifa’s Chief Editor, Magnus Mazimpaka, about the banks experience and her views on what’s coming next.

Describe the nature of effects, materially, strategically and operationally, caused by Covid-19

Dr. Karusisi: The COVID crisis exacerbated all risks the Bank manages: Credit risk (risk of loss resulting from inability of clients to meet their commitments), market risk such as  liquidity and operational risks including risks of fraud, cybersecurity risks as most transactions move to digital. As a result, the Bank has significantly increased provisions for expected losses, which will heavily impact our financials.

In a tightly regulated industry like ours, with heavy procedures and processes reliant on paper and physical contact, operating effectively in a virtual environment has presented great challenges. We were able to speed up implementation of some projects to reduce/digitize physical touch points internally and with clients in a way that improves service delivery but also helps people comply with health measures. The crisis has reinforced our strategic drive to digital with a focus on connectivity, automation and innovation to reduce turnaround times and improve customer experience.

What lessons has the pandemic taught you, technologically in regards to banking….

Dr. Karusisi: The key lesson is that business continuity and resilience is not just a document/policy – banks like all other businesses need to up their preparedness in terms of technology, people, processes, and financial resources. Companies with better financial cushions and resilience will not only survive the crisis but will be the first to innovate and grow after the crisis. We entered the crisis with strong capital and liquidity ratios, and this has helped us weather the storm. Also, more than ever, we have realized that digital is not the future, it is the present! Going connectivity, digital education, and access to devices will be critically important for people to get access to all kinds of services: banking, health, education, entertainment, etc.

What are your new norms. What adjustments have you considered?

Dr. Karusisi: For many companies, remote meetings are now a norm, and signing/approving digitally documents. We’ve discovered that there are excellent solutions to support remote work and remote collaboration, and we expect to extensively use post COVID.

Now that many businesses have taken massive blows. Are you considering an overhaul in product offerings, financing structures, requirements ?

Dr. Karusisi: When the crisis hit, we waived late payment charges, restructuring fees to support businesses with uncertain cash flows. The Bank later provided relief in the form of moratoriums, refinancing and affordable working capital facilities availed by the Government’s Economic Recovery Fund. Finally, we have closed partnership with KFW and are supporting severely hit businesses with grant funding to protect employment.

In terms of product offering, it is obvious that the risk appetite has reduced and we are more cautious in our lending business. There are sectors that will see less financing like hospitality, commercial real estate but I believe agro processing and light manufacturing are going to see a boost, as we want to build resilience at national level.

Tech must have been a saviour of the tough times brought up by Covid-19. Tell us about the experience…were you prepared? What challenges did you encounter, how did you deal with them…what methods did you use…?

Dr. Karusisi: Nobody was prepared to this level of disruption.  At the Bank, we setup a COVID crisis committee that was meeting (virtually) every morning to assess the situation and make quick decisions. The first thing was to protect employees’ and clients’ health across the branch network. We had to offer extra support to our staff on the front lines, organize remote work to support our clients, and scale systems capacity to respond to the exponential surge in digital transactions. In the end, it is always about people and we will keep investing in people – skills, leadership – to build resilience to withstand shocks in the future.

Tell us what your predictions are, based on what you have experienced….

Dr. Karusisi: The level of disruption brought by COVID is such that it will result into profound changes in behavior/preferences of customers – at work, at school, at home, etc. Some pre-existing trends have been dramatically accelerated, such as e-commerce, cashless payments. I believe some new trends will emerge as people have become more health-conscious, less mobile… All industries will be impacted and it is important for us to recognize these trends early, adjust our business models and strategies.

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I&M Bank Acquires 90% Stake In Uganda’s Orient Bank

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I&M Holdings, a Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm has stormed into the Ugandan financial market in style by acquiring a 90% stake in Orient Bank Limited, Taarifa reliably reports.

“This acquisition is expected to give the group greater capacity to grow profitably, through extending our network to our regional customers,” I&M’s executive director Sarit Raja Shah said in a statement.

Since 2014, I&M had been eyeing the Ugandan market in pursuit of growth and regional diversification strategy that is also seen among rivals like KCB Group, Equity Group and DTB Group.

The Kenyan banking multinational bought shares from Orient Bank’s shareholders Hemlata Karia, Jay Karia, Morka Holdings Limited, Zhong Shuang Quan, Cornerstone M8 Limited and the bank’s founder Ketan Morjaria.

This deal adds to I&M’s regional banking operations comprising Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Mauritius.

Morjaria, who held a 7.91% stake before the transaction, sold part of his shares and retains a 5.5% equity in the subsidiary.

Alemayehu Fisseha did not sell his holdings and also retains a 4.5% interest in the bank. “This acquisition marks a great milestone in the history of Orient Bank,” Dr. Morjaria said in a statement.

“We are proud to be integrating into a regional group like I&M Holdings Plc and this synergy will allow our customers to benefit from more seamless and superior banking products whilst continuing our tradition of trust.”

I&M had said that the U$33.5million purchase price would be subject to further adjustments on account of several factors including exchange rate fluctuations and the amounts raised from the sale of the Ugandan bank’s property in Kampala (Orient Plaza).

I&M said of the Orient Bank buyout in a circular to shareholders, “The combined group will be better able to serve the needs of regional and global customers, and in turn promote regional trade flows.”

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Mining Delivers US$385M To Ivorian, Ghanaian Economy In 2020

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Perseus Mining Limited (TSX & ASX: PRU) (www.PerseusMining.com) has released its CY20 Sustainable Development Report. The report details the company’s progress over the past 12 months in delivering on its commitment to responsible mining operations in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, including an overall economic benefit to host countries totalling about USD$385M.

As part of its longstanding commitment to the communities in which it operates, Perseus reported increasing community investment by 71% to around US$1.9M in CY20, funding critical health and education infrastructure projects for local communities. Additionally, Perseus announced it had increased its proportion of local procurement from 66% in CY19 to 78% in CY20, totalling US$287M, and further expanded its employment of local populations, with 96% of its current workforce local to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.

Jeff Quartermaine, Managing Director & CEO of Perseus said:

“Sustainability is deeply rooted in Perseus’s culture and operations and has had a large part to play in our resilience during this challenging year. We believe that responsible gold mining can play a key role in sustainable development, and that investing in our employees and our communities to create enduring social value will remain a guiding force in our growth path and future business operations. I am proud of my team’s effective response to the pandemic which successfully safeguarded our operations as well as our people, enabling us to deliver our Yaouré mine in Côte d’Ivoire this year ahead of schedule. Our approach to sustainability has continued to mature as our business has grown, and in the coming years we look forward to expanding our ESG offering and delivering greater impact across Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.”

Jessica Volich, Group Sustainability Manager at Perseus said:

“Despite the challenges the past year has brought, Perseus’s sustainability agenda has continued to strengthen and evolve alongside its expanding operations. Our wide-ranging efforts and engagement with our local communities and host governments has enabled us to create shared sustainable value for all our stakeholders. We are committed to strengthening these relationships in the coming years as we endeavour to generate socio-economic value for our people, communities and host countries.”

In CY20, Perseus has enhanced its disclosure on sustainability-related risks and opportunities by aligning with the key reporting frameworks used by our stakeholders. These include the World Gold Council Responsible Gold Mining Principles, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

Highlights of the report include:

Economic and Social Contribution

  • Total economic contribution of US$385M in CY20 to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire
  • Increased community investment by 71% (from CY19) to around US$1.9M in CY20, funding critical health and education infrastructure projects for local communities and providing COVID-19 support
  • Creation of new health clinics near Sissingué to improve health outcomes for the ~27,000 residents of the local communities
  • Increased in-country employment, with over 96% of total employees from host countries
  • Local procurement spend of $287M, an increase from 66% in CY19 to 78% in CY20
  • Held 587 consultations with local communities
  • Paid >US$69M in taxes, royalties, and duties to Government

Health & Safety performance:

  • Maintained record of zero workplace fatalities and reduced injuries
  • Implementation of comprehensive measures and protocols to prevent introduction and spread of COVID-19 and maintain business continuity

Environmental stewardship:

  • Re-use of 12,495,163 KL of water
  • Water intensity of 7.46M3/oz gold produced, benchmarked ahead of peers
  • Enhanced tailings disclosures in line with the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, and completed independent audits of all our Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs)

Governance

  • Worked with independent sustainability risk experts, KPMG, to refresh sustainability materiality analysis and conduct deeper analysis of sustainability risks and opportunities, and start development of a 3-year sustainability roadmap
  • Announced appointment of a new Director by the end of FY21 to enhance sustainability skills of the Board
  • Release of the first Modern Slavery Statement to address potential human rights risks in Perseus’ global supply chain

Future ambitions

  • Establish a 3-year sustainability roadmap, and enhance social value and sustainability risk management through updates to the Risk Management Framework and policy standards
  • Establish the Yaouré Community Development Fund in FY21
  • During FY21 and FY22, Perseus will complete and commence implementation of our biodiversity plan at Yaouré in Côte d’Ivoire mine site in and establish our site nursery, to be staffed by local community members
  • Explore strategic opportunities for community partnerships in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana
  • Achieve full alignment with the World Gold Council Responsible Gold Mining Principles by FY23
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How A Career In Public Relations Helped Shape An African Royal

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To some, it might seem like an unusual career trajectory, but for Ewetse Khama, working in the Public Relations industry in Africa has been the perfect preparation for the next step in his unique journey.

From today, Ewetse is stepping down from his role at APO Group, the leading pan-African communications consultancy and press release distribution service, to serve his country and his people.

This year, Ewetse’s father, Sekgoma Tshekedi Khama, retired from active duty in the Bamangwato tribe. This made way for the eldest son, Ewetse to assume his father’s role as a Kgosi – a Batswana term meaning ‘Chief’, ‘King’ or ‘Elder’ – in the Khama Family, one of Botswana’s most prominent royal families.

The Khamas have a long and illustrious history in Botswana. Ewetse’s paternal uncle, Sir Seretse Khama, served as the country’s first President after independence in 1966, and was the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster – A United Kingdom – about his marriage to English woman Ruth Williams. Sir Seretse’s eldest son, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama was Botswana’s 4th President from 2008-2018.

Botswana is one of the most peaceful countries in Africa, which Ewetse attributes partly to the role that traditional leaders play as a conduit between government and the people, especially in promoting harmony and understanding. 

That might be one of the reasons the PR industry has been such a good fit for Ewetse, helping prepare him for the big challenges that lie ahead.

“I felt that I needed to do things for myself and forge my own career, instead of relying on my name or status,” Ewetse says. “As a Khama, I had so much choice in life because many doors were always open to us, I could do or be anything I wanted. But I have always felt strongly about communications and working with people, so PR seemed like the perfect choice.”

Working within the PR Agency division of APO Group has given Ewetse a grounding, and a sense of normality. It has also broadened his horizons internationally, and given him new perspectives on Africa after being educated in Europe. Ewetse believes his PR career – and his time at APO Group – will help make him a better leader.

“I’m a good listener, which is essential in PR. You listen to what somebody has to say, then you help them develop their ideas, and connect with their audiences. The key appeal to me is that Public Relations is really about creating opportunities for people.” 

Ewetse’s work with APO Group has certainly helped him do that. He has offered a guiding hand to many multinational organizations looking to navigate the diverse African media landscape. His experience and local knowledge has enabled those companies to succeed in markets that are often difficult to crack. Like all his APO Group colleagues, Ewetse is passionate about Africa, and provided customers with ‘on-the-ground’ networking and support.     

As APO Group Founder and Chairman, Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard explains: “Not everyone in our team is from African royalty! But they are all deeply attuned to the people, country and region in which they live and operate. Ewetse’s extraordinary story epitomises our commitment to local expertise, and is also a testament to APO’s talent pool across Africa.”

APO Group holds a unique position in the Public Relations industry in Africa. Formerly known as the African Press Organization, it has been providing content to media in all 54 African countries since 2007. Journalists in Africa know and trust APO Group, making them the perfect partner for companies looking to develop their presence on the continent.

Ewetse is now looking to bring the communications skills he honed in the PR industry into his new role as a Kgosi – a Batswana term meaning ‘Chief’, ‘King’ or ‘Elder’ – where his responsibilities include fostering local consensus and governance while also promoting social welfare and the economic empowerment of disadvantaged groups.

“My time at APO Group has been an important part of my career, and I am proud of the work we have done to help our multinational clients and drive business into African economies. I have great memories of the people and the experiences I’ve enjoyed along the way. They will stand me in good stead as I take this next exciting step!” 

Even though Ewetse has now moved on to serve his community and country, he will be remembered fondly by his former colleagues.

“Ewetse will always be a valued part of the APO Group team – a colleague and a friend,” Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard says. “We will miss him, of course, but APO Group’s loss is Botswana’s gain. His nation is lucky to have him. I am grateful for the fact that, thanks to our fantastic team, our clients across Africa will continue to receive a royal standard of quality service!

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