African Banker of the Year: Essien leaves on a high: the Banker Awards recognised Africa's top banks and bankers, celebrating excellent institutions and individuals from all across the continent.

Author:Tudor, Paul

Arranging an exit at the top of the market can often be a difficult skill to master in banking, but it seems that Albert Essien has it down to a tee.

Just a couple of weeks after picking up the African Banker of the Year award for his work in steadying Ecobank and boosting its capital base, chief executive Essien announced his retirement from the institution after a quarter of a century of service.

Picking up the Banker of the Year award at a lavish dinner held on the sidelines of the African Development Bank's Annual Meeting in Abidjan, Essien took to the stage to warmly congratulate his colleagues --and offer a vision of a continent enriched by its financial sector.

"I am really privileged and honoured to have received this prestigious award--it's unexpected. If you have a good team with you, a team that works together, you will definitely shine as a leader. So this is a tribute to the Ecobank team."

He added: "We need to get Africa out of poverty, out of all those social problems. We need to educate people, and build our continent. Financial institutions and banks should definitely be the catalyst for economic and financial development".

This year's African Banker Awards welcomed over 500 guests, including finance ministers, central bank governors and chief executives from across the continent.

Moroccan institution Banque Populaire beat a shortlist of four nominees to win the coveted African Bank of the Year prize, having recently taken over and turned around West Africa's Banque Atlantique. Meanwhile, a Lifetime Achievement award was handed to Jim Ovia, founder and chairman of Nigeria's Zenith Bank.

Credit Suisse's incoming chief executive Tidjane Thiam was the toast of his home country after picking up the African Banker Icon prize. The award represents another coup for the Ivorian businessman, who became the first black FTSE100 chief executive when he was chosen to lead UK insurer Prudential. He will take up his role as head of the Zurich-based Credit Suisse in June, replacing outgoing chief Brady Dougan.

Rwanda's Claver Gatete was named Finance Minister of the Year, while Professor Njuguna Ndung'u of Kenya took home the award for Central Bank Governor of the Year.

"I am deeply humbled, I am very grateful for the recognition to our leadership. We never do anything without the leadership of our President [Paul Kagame] and I think this is his recognition," said Gatete.

Investment Bank of the Year was secured by Rand Merchant Bank.


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