Invest in Africa, urges award winner

Mon, Jun 11, 2012, 01:00

A KENYAN banker who was voted the world entrepreneur of the year at a ceremony in Monaco at the weekend has appealed to his fellow contestants to look at investing in Africa.

Dr James Mwangi, chief executive of Equity Bank, said Africa was the fastest-growing continent in the world and had investment opportunities in a range of sectors including infrastructure development.

If the opportunities that exist on the continent were availed of, Africa would within a few years become a middle-income economy, he said.

Dr Mwangi was voted the Ernst Young Entrepreneur of the Year in a contest involving national winners from 51 countries.

Ireland was represented by Joe Hogan and Niall Norton of the technology group Openet.

Dr Mwangi took over a failing micro-finance institution and transformed it into Africa’s largest bank in terms of customer base.

He said he had the ambition when starting out of democratising the financial sector. At the time 4 per cent of Kenyans had bank accounts; the figure is now 26 per cent.

In 2010 he was named by the Financial Times as one of the top 50 business leaders in emerging markets.

He has also established a foundation to work on certain programme areas, including education. He said 800,000 children in school were supported by the programme.

Dr Mwangi said after he received the award that he had grown up in very humble circumstances. He had entered banking with the ambition to change it and to help the community.

He added that the negative image that existed globally in relation to business in Africa was unwarranted and he urged the media and business leaders to pay more attention to the positive developments and investment opportunities that existed in the continent.

Entrepreneurs and governments in Africa were two parts of the effort to improve the living conditions of people on the continent, which was quickly generating a middle-income population, he said.