10 Jan 2019
CIEL Finance

Carl Chirwa, Head of International Banking, Bank One: "Mauritius remains undisputedly the best address in Africa for banking services..."

Interview of Carl Chirwa, Head of International Banking, Bank One Mauritius - Global Finance Magazine, December 2018

Global Finance Magazine: You recently joined Bank One Mauritius, bringing nearly 20 years of expertise in Pan-African banking. What is your role as Head of International Banking, and how is Bank One well positioned in the Sub-Saharan and East-Africa Region? 

Carl ChirwaAs Head of International Banking, my mandate is to grow Bank One’s business outside Mauritius and serve our diverse international clients who are predominantly based in Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and South East Asia. 

Bank One is fortunate to have two strong shareholders who each have an equal stake in the Bank namely CIEL Group and I&M Holdings PLC. CIEL Group is one of the largest Mauritian conglomerates with a diverse range of interests ranging from textiles, sugar, health care, hospitality to finance. Our other shareholder is I&M Holdings, a Banking and Insurance Group based in Kenya with interests in Tanzania, Rwanda and Mauritius. With these two shareholders, Bank One is well-positioned in Sub-Saharan Africa and East-Africa; as we are truly from Africa and for Africa. Indeed, we are uniquely present on and offshore of the continent and our strong Africa credentials are a fundamental part of our unique value proposition to our clients.

Cross-border banking in Africa has seen strong growth.  What banking services are most needed, what are the challenges, and what is Bank One’s strategy for becoming a leader in this market? 

Any bank can open an account for you, offer you financing and transaction banking services. However as banking  evolves (into what Brett King terms Banking 4.0), what I am increasingly seeing  across the continent, from both global investors as well as African regional corporates expanding  beyond their home turf to leverage the palpable opportunities available in the region, is the need for a banking partner who is a thought leader and a trusted advisor to help navigate the complex challenges of business, country risk, regulatory, legal and tax environments which differ widely across each jurisdiction out of the 55 jurisdictions that make up Africa. 

I believe that my 20-year Pan-African banking experience and deep networks covering 26 countries with global banks such as Citi where I ran the Trade Finance business for Sub-Saharan Africa well as my background in Development Finance with the Trade & Development Bank (TDB) can truly add value to our clients who are looking to invest or trade in Africa.

How will the African Continental Free Trade Area impact Bank One’s international plans?

Once ratified, the ACFTA should ease the cost and complexity of doing business across the continent significantly. I believe that this presents a huge opportunity for Bank One to scale up its International Banking operations. Our strategy going forward is to develop the West African market, particularly Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana as well as Southern Africa of which Botswana, Namibia and Malawi are of interest to Bank One.

How will Bank One’s International Banking services support economic growth locally – in Mauritius and Africa – as well as attract global corporates to the region?

Mauritius remains undisputedly the best address in Africa for banking services and the jurisdiction ticks all the boxes when it comes to governance, transparency, ease of doing business, exchange control, tax efficiency, security or economic stability. 

At Bank One, we are proud of our strong offshore credentials and encourage global investors to utilize our platform as a ‘springboard’ into Africa through tax efficient legal investment vehicles, thought leadership, trusted advisor status and the benefit of our networks to help them develop new business partnerships on the continent. We also aim at leveraging our equally strong onshore credentials across Sub-Saharan Africa to finance regional corporates looking to expand across their borders. We believe both these strategies will benefit the local economy in terms of investment flows and support the broader Africa Growth Story.