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Rwanda recruits Tidjane Thiam to boost Kigali’s finance offer

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The former Credit Suisse boss has just been appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of Rwanda Finance Limited, the government agency responsible for the development and promotion of the Kigali International Financial Centre (KIFC).

After his hasty departure from the Credit Suisse bank, Tidjane Thiam confirms his African ambition. The Franco-Ivorian banker has just been appointed by the Rwandan government to head the board of directors of Rwanda Finance Limited.

The appointment, which comes at the same time as six other members, was signed by Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente at the end of a cabinet meeting chaired by Head of State Paul Kagame on Wednesday, 11 November, at Village Urugwiro, headquarters of the Rwandan presidency.

Since February 7, when he resigned as managing director of the Swiss banking group, Thiam was first reported to the board of directors of the French luxury holding company Kering, before making a name for himself again on the continent.

Two months later, he became involved in the economic response to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, joining the African Union task force – alongside Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Trevor Manuel, and Donald Kaberuka – in charge of finding a coordinated and continental solution to the health crisis. On this occasion, he chaired a working group on the fight against COVID-19 with the Rwandan president on 5 June.

Then he made a return, first unofficial, then more clearly in politics in Côte d’Ivoire, more than 20 years after leaving the country where he was Minister of Planning and Development.

And he officially chose the ranks of the opposition in the Ivorian presidential race, won on November 3 by Alassane Ouattara in a third term.

Promoting the financial sector

A return to business, therefore, for what some consider to be an African financial prodigy. The banker who is credited with the turnaround and restructuring of the second largest Swiss bank, as well as the earlier development of the British insurer Prudential.

Tidjane Thiam is once again extricating himself from the torments of Ivorian politics. And to integrate, in contrast to the continent, a recently created public structure. The Rwanda Finance Limited is the counterpart of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) – the public agency responsible for attracting foreign investment to the country – and has the mandate to develop the Kigali International Financial Centre (KIFC). The KIFC is a world-class financial center designed to promote foreign investment and the creation of highly skilled jobs in finance for the benefit of Rwanda and the African continent.

With Thiam, note the presence on the board of the government agency headed by Nick Barigye, the former chief of staff of Ali Bongo Ondimba, Lebanon Soleman, appointed last May to the board of directors of the Rwanda Development Board.

Also appointed were Cameroonian Diko Jacob Mukete, former representative of the African Development Bank (ADB) in Rwanda; Louise Kanyonga, head of strategy and compliance at the RDB; chartered accountant Alice Ntamitondero; Umulinga Karangwa, founder of Africa Nziza Investment Advisory and Julien Kavaruganda, founder of the business law firm K-Solutions & Partners.

Contacted by to know the mission of the new board of directors, and in particular the mandate of Tidjane Thiam at the head of the body, Rwanda Finance Limited did not answer our questions before we went to press.

Enabling Business Environment

Rwanda has a stable and resilient economy with a ten-year average growth rate of 8.6 percent. It was also ranked first in Africa for the transparency of its government according to Transparency International’s 2019 report.

In recent years, the country has been known for its efforts to attract foreign capital. It intends to provide an optimum business environment through the Government of Rwanda’s Vision 2035 and 2050.

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