Akin Dawodu’s background and how he ended up in the banking industry
Akin Dawodu has been Citibank’s Cluster Head for Sub Sahara Africa (SSA) since November 2019, providing business oversight in the region’s 12 presence and 21 non-presence countries. Before his appointment as Cluster Head SSA, he was the Cluster Head for Citi in West and Central Africa and the Citi Country Officer (CCO) for Citi in Nigeria. Akin has always been interested in economics and finance and pursued an MBA, and became a charter holder of the CFA exams. He ended up in banking because it was the industry where his overall skill set was best served, given the architecture of the economy at that particular point in time.
Trends in the banking industry and how have they impacted Africa?
Akin Dawodu has observed increased adoption of electronic and digital channels in the banking industry in Africa, which has led to the rise of financial inclusion and reduced the need for physical branches in some areas. He has also noted the growth of National Banks in Africa and their becoming African Champions.
“These developments are positive because National Banks are going to be big drivers of the financialisation of the economies and the development and growth of the economies, facilitating that economic intermediary.” Akin said in a podcast interview with Kenyan Wallstreet in Nairobi.
Role of banks in AFCTA
Akin believes that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a positive step towards increasing trade within Africa, which historically has been dominated by exports of raw materials and imports of finished goods. To achieve this, friction and non-tariff barriers to trade must be reduced, and logistical challenges must be addressed.
“The AFCTA is a step in the right direction for Africa, which was not set up to trade with itself. The AFCTA should reverse that considerably, and banks can play a significant role in its success by removing friction to create the borders ease of access tariffs and all that non-tariff barriers, easing travel logistics and reprioritising how people move about.” said Akin Dawodu.
Regulatory changes across Africa and how have they impacted Banking
Akin Dawodu notes that East Africa compares very well with the rest of the continent as a place to do business, with comparatively strong institutions, relatively liberal policies, and a decent rule of law. He believes that we will see more of a reversion to the more liberal markets approach from a regulatory perspective across the entire sub-Saharan Africa space.
How does Citi deal with geopolitical tensions, changes, and crises in the world?
“The Russia-Ukraine war was a catalyst unleashed in the past year and the US monetary policymakers’ response with very aggressive interest rates going up.’
According to Akin Dawodu, Citi Bank has been around for more than 200 years and is very experienced globally. The bank has witnessed significant global events such as the first world war, the growth of significant domestic bond markets, the end of colonialism, the rise of neoliberalism, and the 2008 global crash. Citi Bank deals with geopolitical tensions, changes, and crises in the world by adapting to changes, with a robustness that comes from a long history in the markets.
What opportunities exist in Africa, and what challenges need to be overcome to take advantage of them?
Akin Dawodu notes that traditionally, Africa was very much dominated by the colonial powers and the West, but the past three decades have seen the rise of China and its greater influence in Africa, as well as Turkey and Russia. Africa remains resource-rich, and the challenge has always been how to transcend that resource, add value to it, and use that wealth to create prosperity for the population in the continent, which historically has been a struggle.
“To take advantage of the opportunities in Africa, economies will have to become more diversified, complicated, and innovative, with investment in skills and services.”
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