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Africa's rising stars: Yinka Odeleye, director, head of corporate finance for Citi Nigeria

Nationality: Nigerian

Yinka Odeleye heads Citi’s corporate finance team in Nigeria, responsible for originating and executing corporate finance and investment banking transactions in various sectors, including financials, energy, telecoms and manufacturing.

He has worked on some landmark deals in Nigeria. Two of the most notable were the sovereign’s debut Eurobond in 2011 for $500 million and the subsequent issue in 2013 for $1 million, which developed a yield curve and benchmark for local companies.

First Bank, Fidelity Bank, Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank followed suit and issued successful Eurobonds between 2011 and 2013, leading to the deepening of Nigeria’s capital markets. After the success of the sovereign’s issues, Odeleye was taken on board to advise First Bank and Access Bank.

Yinka Odeleye 

While at Citi, Odeleye has also worked with development financial institutions (DFIs), the first being in 2008 to help a small steel-manufacturing company to access necessary funding during the start of the Nigerian banking crisis. 

“African companies often need longer-term capital, to support longer-term development, which commercial banks often cannot provide – this became particularly clear in 2008," he says. "DFIs can help to fill the funding gap so are essential to Africa’s long-term growth story.”

Working with a DFI was something Odeleye never had the chance to do while working on Wall Street during his time at Lehman Brothers as a fixed-income research analyst. Odeleye says: “People would often say to me: ‘What can working in a Nigerian-based bank offer you that Wall Street can’t?’ Within my first couple of months at Citi in Lagos, I could tell them.

“In 2008, I took a break from my Wall Street job and I travelled to Nigeria for a holiday. The difference in Nigeria from 10 to 15 years earlier was absolutely clear. 

"When I was in Nigeria working at Guaranty Trust Bank in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the biggest deal I worked on was an $8 million financing deal for an indigenous oil firm. Now people were talking about doing deals more than 10 times the size of that. Nigeria was going through a period of financial exuberance."

He adds: “I remember going back to my in the office in New York, watching Nigerian deals on the Bloomberg ticker and I just kept thinking about how well things were going over there. I knew I had to be a part of this.”

In April 2008, Odeleye made the change and took up a position in Citi where his international banking experience would come to good use. Slowly, other Nigerian friends he had made in New York joined him.

“The financial crisis was hitting the US and sentiment was down, and despite the problems in Nigeria everyone was getting excited about the country’s potential,” says Odeleye. "I took a chance and went back to Nigeria because I really thought I could contribute to its development."

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