Roger Boka, Nigel Chanakira, Douglas Munatsi, David Chapfika and William Nyemba have more than one thing in common and there are no prizes for guessing what it is. Yes, they are bankers and have over the years become the faces of black empowerment in the fragile financial services sector.
For years Zimbabwe’s banking system was dominated by multinational institutions until the tide turned in the 90s.
Their journeys have been arduous and their reputations have been put on the spotlight. Sadly for some of these pioneers their banks have failed to stand the test of time. For many, Munatsi appears like that brat who grew up with a silver spoon on his mouth in the affluent suburbs of Harare. But that’s not the case.
Since cutting his teeth as a graduate trainee at Barclays Bank in 1985, the banker remains unassuming referring himself as regular guy born in Highfield who grew up mostly in Mufakose in Harare.
“When I left my parents’ home, I lived for a short while in Gweru, and also with my grandparents in Masvingo. I am really a regular guy. God has been grateful to me and that’s the honest truth,” Munatsi told Business Times in a wide-ranging interview last week.
After leaving the banking sector where he was chief executive of BancABC, Munatsi’s name has refused to fade and has remained a point of reference to most prospective future investment banking moguls.
Munatsi left University of Zimbabwe in 1985 and went straight into banking as a graduate trainee at Barclays Bank. After finishing his programme, he immediately left for the United States of America to do his MBA.
“After finishing my studies in the USA I came back home to join ZimBank which managed to give me a great opportunity to grow and set up interesting things there,” he said.
His exploits at ZimBank saw him being headhunted by International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arm of the World Bank Group where he was tasked to cover the Southern Africa region.
Equipped with the essential skills, Munatsi left IFC to set up his own enterprise, Heritage Investment Bank in 1995.
This was the beginning of the businessman’s era of lucrative entrepreneurship. Munatsi did a feasibility study for the new enterprise and after securing banking licence, brought together a group of investors culminating in the launch of the bank in 1995.
When he heard that Anglo American was selling its non-core assets, Munatsi approached the conglomerate, which owned 42 percent in First Merchant Bank, the oldest and largest merchant bank at the time.
“So we approached them and said why don’t you sell the business to us… which they did. So we merged Heritage Investment Bank and First Merchant Bank which was listed at the time so we started running a listed business and worked with the Anglo guys because they retained about 20 percent. So we worked with the Anglo guys from 1997 until around 2000,” said Munatsi.
Anglo also had a stake in a vehicle which controlled UDC group and because the investors in that vehicle were exiting they offered Munatsi to look at possibilities of merging FMB and the UDC group which was done and in June 2000, ABC Holdings was listed in Botswana.
This period saw Munatsi being appointed chief executive for ABC from 2000 until 2014.
Munatsi and his team exited Banc ABC in 2014 after selling their shareholding in the pan African banking group to Atlas Mara, an investment vehicle co-founded by banker Bob Diamond and billionaire entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar.
His departure saw the formation of DBF Capital together with former ABC executives Francis Dzanya and Bheki Moyo.
Munatsi said DPF Capital Partners is definitely his future.
His views on challenges being faced by Africa businessman
“In general, I think you have to go into a business that you really like. A business that you are competent in. Then of course you must also run something that you have a passion for because sometimes when you ask people, what is your passion, they can’t answer you.
“So I think that is an important part and then the problem of success in entrepreneurship is there is need for discipline. In general success and growth are incremental, but if people are not patient, it’s a matter of building it brick by brick,” said Munatsi.
“Whether it’s financial management, whether it’s being focused on professional integrity, all these things are always compromised when you are not disciplined.”
Munatsi on the state of the economy
With public spending accounting for nearly 90 percent of total revenues, treasury according to Munatsi should exercise restraint in capping its expenditure. Limited fiscal space has crowded out capital projects resulting in the central bank issuing treasury bills to meet expenditure.
“The new government needs to instil tight fiscal discipline across all facets of governance for the country’s economy to get back to its feet, a thing that has been lacking in the past,” Munatsi said.
His utterances come after calls that government needs to implement necessary institutional arrangements required to enhance public sector financial management transparency and accountability.
An integral and essential part of these arrangements has been the proposed use of accrual-based accounting through the adoption and implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards which promotes greater transparency and accountability in public sector finances and allows for enhanced monitoring of government debt and liabilities for true economic implications.
“Well no doubt, I think the biggest issue is that this country has never enjoyed fiscal discipline, so there has been a lot of indiscipline, so we have to go back to fiscal discipline, we must stay within our capacity as a country. In general, what it means is that we must balance our budget but beyond balancing your budget it also means creating whatever instruments you use to finance your operations. They must be affordable,” he said.
“The second thing is we have to really make a great investment case. The biggest challenge is that Zimbabwe has never been self-sufficient in foreign currency even before independence.”
He said the country has always had a foreign currency deficit just like South Africa but noted that Passion, discipline, patience key to success: Munatsi RBZ needs to stick to its primary mandate and move away from the role of foreign exchange allocation.
“First of all you must be disciplined and live within your means. We need to generate more exports that will allow you to be a net foreign exchange generating economy. So we have to create an amazing investment environment,” he said.