Visiting Barclays PLC Chief Executive Bob Diamond said Africa’s potential is increasingly significant but strong growth will largely depend on the continent’s commitment to improve governance and political stability as well as control inflation.
Speaking to business leaders and students at Strathmore Business School (SBS) in Nairobi, Diamond said rapid-growth markets will, however, need the investment, technical know-how and long term commitment that international companies are providing to maximise their potential and boost local economies.
“Various regions around the world face a variety of challenges, but what is clear to us as Barclays is that emerging markets, especially Africa, are going to be critical in driving recovery and global growth in the future. From the United States to China to Japan, new capital is now flowing into Africa because people have changed the way they view the continent,” he pointed out.
The uncertain global outlook presents both opportunity and challenge, he added.
“Exposure to Europe is relatively limited as only 30 percent of manufacturing exports are sourced from Africa. Certainly, we see opportunities stemming from a re-direction and focus on Africa as a major investment destination because there are a host of opportunities especially in Sub-Saharan Africa,” added Diamond.
The Barclays Chief Executive said multinationals, such as Barclays, are re-tooling their strategy to help integrate and improve businesses across Africa. He pointed out that citizenship is one of Barclays core strategic priorities. He defined citizenship as a three-pronged philosophy aimed at contributing to growth in the real economy, improving standards of service and making sustainable contribution to the economies in which the bank is operating.
Diamond said this citizenship is critical to Barclays since “banks are there not only to provide basic banking services for those currently un-banked but also improving access to banking”.
“Barclays is currently implementing a three-year programme called Banking on Change investing Sh1.2 billion globally in 11 countries to support financial inclusion which is one of our focus areas. In Kenya working in partnership with CARE and Plan International, we have so far trained 90,000 clients enabling over 90 Banking on Change groups to open savings accounts with Barclays. In addition our staff volunteer their own time to help mentor the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) groups,” said Diamond.
Banking on Change is aimed at reaching around 400,000 people in eleven countries across Africa, Asia and South America.
Addressing the business leaders at the event, Dr. George Njenga, Founding Dean of Strathmore Business School said: “Companies need to increasingly invest in institutions in order to reap the best out of the opportunities available. This symbiotic relationship between business schools and corporate institutions is increasingly important for companies to nurture business skills and ensure better execution of ideas for economic prosperity.