Pan-African trade finance bank appoints first woman vice president

Kanayo Awani

Kanayo Awani, the new executive Vice President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Ms Kanayo Awani boasts of a global career that spans trade and investment banking.
  • The appointment is seen by observers as a milestone for the regional banking industry.

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has named Nigerian banker Kanayo Awani as it's first female vice president for a new trade docket joining other Pan-African institutions that are increasing diversity in their top ranks.

Ms Awani - an insider of the bank - has been a rising star within the bank and the wider financial industry, with a global career that spans trade and investment banking.

Her appointment as the new executive Vice President of the Intra-African Trade Bank which was announced in a statement by the bank will take effect from July 1, 2022 making her one of the most powerful figures in the bank.

The appointment - a first for the bank and a boost for regional gender equality - is seen by observers as a milestone for the regional banking industry where there are few women executives at the top.

In her new position, she will lead the executive division of Afreximbank responsible for driving all Afreximbank intra-African trade activities, including all its African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation engagements.

She recently served as managing director of Afreximbank’s Intra-African Trade Initiative since May 18, 2016, where she had the primary responsibility of assisting the bank in ensuring the attainment of its Intra-African Trade Strategy.

Previously, Ms Awani was director of Afreximbank’s Trade Finance and Branches Department which drove the bank’s business development efforts in trade finance across Africa.

She first joined the Bank in April 2009 to head its newly created Trade Finance and Branches.

According to the bank, the appointment followed a decision by its Board of Directors to approve a recommendation by the bank's President, Professor Benedict Oramah, for Ms Awani to be appointed to the new position.

“This appointment recognizes the instrumental role Ms Awani has played in championing intra-African trade over the last several years," said Professor Oramah in a statement.

“It also demonstrates the Board’s confidence in her ability to provide much-needed leadership as Afreximbank notches up its drive to further boost intra-African trade through the establishment of a focused purpose-driven intra-African trade bank alongside its activities underpinning the AfCFTA," added Oramah who is serving a second 5-year final term that ends in 2025 paving way for a new leader at the helm of the bank in under three years.

In her previous role, Ms Awani successfully led Afreximbank’s engagements in support of the establishment and implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), championing the bank’s support for the negotiations that culminated in the signing of the AfCFTA agreement in Kigali in March 2018. 

The AfCFTA, which aims to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4 trillion (Sh397.8 trillion) economic bloc, will boost trade among African neighbours while allowing the continent to develop its own value chains.

Prior to joining Afreximbank in 2009, Ms Awani served with Citigroup from 1990 to 2008, with responsibilities in trade services and operations, corporate finance, and corporate banking before rising to the position of vice president/head of Industrial and Commercial Corporates at Citigroup Nigeria.

Prior to Citigroup, she worked as collateral officer for the Nigerian Agricultural and Cooperative Bank Ltd for one year.

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