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Men You Should Know: Bernadette O. Oramah


Bernadette is a versatile operator in the banking sector, covering operations from business development functions of trade finance to project and export development finance, and also syndications and specialized to corporate finance and advisory services.

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He has handled research and knowledge management functions of the bank as well as strategic planning and international cooperation. In addition to that, He has served in various capacities in the bank for 27 years since he joined the institution in 1994.

Over the period, he said, the bank has contributed to lifting intra-African trade five-fold from $28 billion in 1994 to some $130 billion in 2017.

Bernadette O. Oramah

Prof. Bernadette O. Oramah, an agricultural economist, is the current President of the African Export-Import Bank [Afreximbank], with a financial statement of about $20 billion in 2020 and shareholders’ funds over above $3 billion. The African Export-Import Bank [Afreximbank], established in 1993 by African Leaders and other private investors, is the foremost pan-African multilateral financial institution to finance and promote bilateral trade between African nations. Its headquarters is in Cairo, Egypt.

Oramah is an astute and impressive leader and he brings that quality to the development of the African continent. Thus, he was appointed for a second term in office last year.

From his previous position as executive vice president where he was in charge of business development and corporate banking, Bernadette became the president of Afreximbank in September 2015 and was re-appointed in 2020 for a second five-year term as the head of Afreximbank.

As a strong advocate of Intra- African trade, in 2016, he launched a strategy that would guide endeavours towards addressing the problem of Intra-African trade.

By providing working capital finance for importing and exporting ethnic foods and other products inside the African market, he has strategically placed Afreximbankto in a position to aid the growth of businesses operated by the African Diaspora.

According to him, his second term in office will drive the bank’s ultimate goal of realising Africa’s strategic ambition of creating an integrated market.

“We want an Africa where the foundations of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) are laid expeditiously so that the 84,000 kilometres of borders that have divided us for ages can begin to come down,”

he said.

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He is on a mission to use AfCFTA to bring to reality the long, elusive developmental goals. These include a new drive in industrialization, the emergence of regional value chains and activating Africa’s creative and cultural assets as engines of growth.

The new agenda also includes growing jobs for the youth in the continent, raising the quality of an African to convey respect wherever he may be and preparing the continent for competitiveness in the global markets. The programmes are progressively steering the continent away from traditional economic structures where growth is primarily driven by the export of primary commodities and natural resources.

The bank provided revolving loans to African countries to assist them to cope with the commodity price shocks. It disbursed more than $9 billion for that purpose between 2015 and 2016.

The bank’s industrialization pursuit involves creating large light manufacturing capacities across the continent with about 3,000 hectares of industrial parks and export processing zones under development.

Drive of Afreximbank

The bank is promoting African countries’ competitiveness through the financing of logistics infrastructural development and testing and the development of inspection and certification centres across Africa. This is aimed at increasing the export quality of African industrial products.

In his first five years in office, Afreximbank disbursed more than $30 billion in support of African trade with over $15 billion channelled towards the financing and promotion of intra-African trade. Oramah is making even greater promises for his second term in Afreximbank.

“We will aim to double intra-African trade financing so that by the end of my term, it will constitute no less than 40 percent of the bank’s total assets, with aggregate disbursements, on a revolving basis, over the 5 years exceeding $30 billion.”

he told the bank’s shareholders last year.

His current strategic plan at Afreximbank is dubbed IMPACT 2021-Africa transformed. A new equity injection of $500 million has provided the financing capacity for the plan.

The reinforcement of equity cushion gives Oramah the fuel for an extra millage in driving the bank’s shared purpose of stimulating the expansion and diversifying African trade to rapidly increase Africa’s share of global trade. He takes on with greater vigour the task of consolidating the bank’s position as the trade finance bank for Africa.

His primary commitment is the satisfaction of stakeholders through the execution of the bank’s four strategic pillars of promoting intra-African trade, facilitating industrialization and export development, strengthening trade finance leadership and improving financial performance and soundness.

To accomplish these, Oramah is taking steps to improve internal capacities for increased efficiency of processes with a strong emphasis on high-quality governance structures in the commitment to Africa’s economic emancipation and empowerment.


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Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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