Thiam finds energetic redemption in Rwanda Finance role
Euromoney Limited, Registered in England & Wales, Company number 15236090
4 Bouverie Street, London, EC4Y 8AX
Copyright © Euromoney Limited 2024
Accessibility | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Modern Slavery Statement
Opinion

Thiam finds energetic redemption in Rwanda Finance role

The former Credit Suisse chief is championing Africa.

Thiam-IMG_1125-960.jpg

Among the many intriguing subplots of the Singapore-backed Inclusive Fintech Forum in Rwanda in June was the presence of Tidjane Thiam holding court on stage.

Looking thrilled not to be answering questions about the problems that brought down Credit Suisse (and perhaps his role in engendering some of them in the first place), Thiam was instead speaking in his role as chairman of the board of Rwanda Finance Ltd. This is a government agency responsible for the development of the Kigali International Financial Centre, which in turn stewards Rwanda’s attempts to become the financial centre of Africa.

Thiam’s background, often forgotten amid the various successes and reverses of his years at Prudential and Credit Suisse, is actually in government.

After stints at McKinsey, he left France to return to Côte d’Ivoire, the country of his birth, to lead an infrastructure development and economic advisory board. Much of the country’s privatization programme of the mid to late 1990s stemmed from him.

See our article here for Thiam’s recollections on fighting the World Bank over the validity of mobile telecommunications in Africa, and persuading the army pension fund to provide the funding to close the deal on a new bridge in Abidjan.

Thiam is a proud champion of Africa’s potential, arguing that it sits at the same inflexion point as the one he recalls from when he first visited Asia in the 1980s

Today, Thiam is a proud champion of Africa’s potential, arguing that it sits at the same inflexion point as the one he recalls from when he first visited Asia in the 1980s, at the onset of “a period of amazing growth”.

His favourite anecdote explains how he used to stand up to talk about Africa in Europe in the early 1990s.

“People would listen politely and say the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa is less than Belgium,” he says. “It was irritating. Because it was true.”

Today, he says, Africa’s GDP ($3.14 trillion) would make it a G7 nation. But “people looking at GDP are looking in the rear-view mirror. We are lucky to be Africans, lucky to be in Africa.”

His energy at this developmental role, with Credit Suisse in his own rear-view mirror, puts us in mind of the time when Thiam received Euromoney’s Banker of the Year award in 2018, at a mighty gathering in the Park Lane Hilton.

Thiam referenced Bob Marley in an emotional speech, and as he left the stage, the choir in attendance spontaneously delivered an appropriate chorus: Redemption Song.

Gift this article