Magazine article Global Finance

A Frank Conversation

Magazine article Global Finance

A Frank Conversation

Article excerpt

Ebenezer Essoka, a native of Cameroon, is vice chair for Africa at Standard Chartered. He sat down with Global Finance to discuss African trade and the need for African policymakers to ensure that foreign investment deals are in the best interest of all stakeholders.

Essoka started his career at Bank of Boston in his native Cameroon before joining Standard Chartered in 1986. He received an MBA from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.

Global Finance: Some of the largest investments in natural resources In Africa are Chinese. What does that say about the business environment?

Ebenezer Essoka: Our parents and grandparents who negotiated with the Chinese 10 or 20 years ago did not necessarily have the sophistication to negotiate to their advantage for a fair exchange. At the time, Africa was a dark continent to the Western world. There were no other takers. And we needed the money. There were highly indebted nations in Africa. So the Chinese got a lot of natural resources. Was the price fair? No. But if I have to negotiate with the Chinese today, you are speaking to a different African. I am absolutely determined to negotiate at an advantage.

OF: What advantage does an African enjoy in running a global bank in Africa?

Essoka: Obviously, it pays to have people who can look into the authorities'eyeballs and tell them, "I'm sorry, Mr. President, but this isn't going to work." When I sat on the president of Ghana's advisory council, one thing he told me was, "I enjoyed the brutal frankness of our conversations." I could tell him directly what I thought was going wrong without being accused of being a racist. And without being accused of being a foreigner, even though I am Cameroonian by birth.

OF: Where in Africa would you say the banking Industry is most advanced?

Essoka: South Africa, from a governance perspective, is much more solid. …

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