Afreximbank not just any other bank—Oramah


The African Export-Import Bank has disbursed nearly US$90bn since inception and has been the all-weather financial institution to African member countries at a time when international lenders are exiting the continent, its president Benedict Oramah (pictured) has said.

The trade finance bank is celebrating 30 years next month during its annual meetings in Accra, Ghana, from June 18 to 21.

Oramah told journalists at a pre-annual meetings press conference there was a “reason for establishing Afreximbank and that is why we go in to support countries when others are running away”.

“Afreximbank has stood shoulder to shoulder with countries. During the commodity crisis of 2015/16 so many international banks left the continent. Afreximbank made sure that our countries and banks did not go into trade payment default, that they adjusted in an orderly manner to the shocks. We disbursed US$10bn which helped to avert institutional default,” Oramah said.

He said the bank intervened during the Covid-19 era when it was “everyone to himself and God for us all” as countries battled to buy the face masks and test kits as there was no one willing to sell.

The trade finance bank walked with the African Union and put together the African Medical Supplies platform that made it possible to pull Africa demand. This led to the establishment of the Pandemic Trade Impact Mitigation Facility (PATIMFA).

The facility disbursed US$16bn over three years that made it possible for countries to buy test kits, pay for backlog of trade debt, buy PPEs and import food and fertiliser, Oramah said.

He said Africa was left behind when vaccines came as every country “wanted first to get its people vaccinated”.

Afreximbank was mandated by the AU to work with envoys to find a solution.

“We used the Africa Medical Supplies platform to pull demand for Africa together then we provided US$2bn guarantee to cover the 30% purchase that was the gap Africa had at that time,” Oramah said.

The banker said Afreximbank also moved in to mitigate the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war by unveiling a Ukraine Crisis Adjustment Trade Financing Programme for Africa (UKAFPA) as no bank was willing to support.

UKAFPA has so far disbursed US$8bn, Oramah said.

Working with its partners, the bank established an Africa Trade Exchange Platform, a digital platform that is used to pull demand for food, fertiliser that made it possible for every country “whether they are small island economies or large economies to buy these items at the same cost and get supported by Afreximbank”.

Oramah said Afreximbank was assisting African financial institutions to acquire units of foreign banks that would have been exiting Africa to bring “stability to our financial institutions”.

He said it was an unhealthy situation where the banking sector was dominated by foreign owned financial institutions.

“While we welcome foreign investors we want to be like other countries. Americans own American banks, Europeans own European banks, Chinese own Chinese banks, Indians own Indian banks, Africans should own a majority of banks if you want stability on the continent,” Oramah said.

The Cairo-headquartered bank has in the past bailed out Zimbabwe and was the last bank standing when multilateral and bilateral financial institutions gave the southern African nation a wide berth due to a debt overhang. Zimbabwe has a total consolidated debt of US$17.5bn.

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