On October 10th, 2017, Professor Yaw Nyarko, Director of NYU Africa House, invited guests to join him for a special conversation with the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Dr. Benedict O. Oramah. Dr. Oramah’s keynote lecture, organized by NYU Africa House and NYU Development Research Institute (DRI), explored the resilient and thriving nature of African economies. The event brought together distinguished NYU faculty members, students, business leaders, investors, the diplomatic community, and members of the African Diaspora.
When Portuguese explorers first arrived on the East African Coast at the turn of the 16th century, an anonymous recorder on the voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral noted of Kilwa—a city off the coast of present-day Tanzania: “This island is small, near the mainland, and is a beautiful country. The houses are high like those of Spain. In this land there are rich merchants, and there is much gold and silver and amber and musks and pearls. Those of the land wear clothes of fine cotton and of silk and many fine things and they are black men.” In West Africa, the same black men established Timbuktu—a mythical city home to the shrines of three hundred and thirty-three Sufi Saints with edifices which housed between sixty and a hundred thousand manuscripts dating back as far as the thirteenth century. Timbuktu, which had been the vanguard of knowledge and the epicenter of commerce on the Trans-Saharan caravan route, lost that prestige in the post-slavery and colonial era, just like the whole of Africa which saw its contribution to global trade decline markedly and its integration into the global economy confined to primary commodity and natural resource exports. Yes, even in a world of competitive globalization, Africa can reclaim its glorious history as a global leader in trade and knowledge creation. This keynote outlined a path to African prosperity, building on opportunities for economies of scale and structural transformation offered by intra-African trade in a continent where the digital revolution has re-ignited the spirit of innovation with tremendous potential for enhancing the integration of Africa into the global economy as a competitive player.
Dr. Benedict Oramah assumed the position of President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) in September 2015. At the 2017 African Banker Awards Ceremony, Dr. Oramah was named the African Banker of the Year.
Prior to his current role, he was the Executive Vice President responsible for Business Development and Corporate Banking (BDCB), a position he occupied from October 2008 to September 2015. As Executive Vice President, Dr. Oramah supervised the Business Development functions, namely: Trade Finance, Project and Export Development Finance, Syndications and Specialized Finance (SSF), and Corporate Finance and Advisory Services (CFAS). He also supervised the Research and Knowledge Management Functions of the Bank. Further, he assisted the then President of the Bank in overseeing the Bank’s Strategic Planning and International Cooperation Functions. Dr. Oramah joined Afreximbank as Chief Analyst in 1994 and was promoted to the position of Senior Director, Planning and Business Development in 2007. Prior to joining Afreximbank, he held the position of Assistant Research Manager at the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) from 1992 to 1994.
Dr. Oramah holds an Advanced Management Certificate from Columbia University obtained in 2015, an M.Sc. and Ph.D. Degrees in Agricultural Economics obtained in 1987 and 1991 respectively from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He obtained a B.Sc. degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 1983. He recently published a book titled “Foundations of Structured Trade Finance” and has written over 35 professional/scholarly articles on a wide range of African economic, trade and trade finance issues.
He is a regular speaker at trade and trade finance conferences around the world. Dr. Oramah is a Member of the Emerging Markets Advisory Council of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a Member of the Executive Committee of the Factors Chain International (FCI), a Member of the Consultative Board on the World Cocoa Economy of the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) and a Fellow of the Institute of Credit Administration (FICA). He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Trade and Forfaiting Review (TFR) and the Journal of African Trade (JAT). He is married and has three children.
About the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank)
The African Export-Import Bank, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018, was established in October 1993 by African Governments, African private and institutional investors as well as non-African financial institutions and private investors for the purpose of financing, promoting and expanding intra- and extra-African trade. Over the last few years, the Bank has grown significantly, doubling its balance sheet to $12bn and increasing its capital base. Under its Fifth Strategic Plan dubbed “Impact 2021—Africa Transformed,” the Bank intends to act as a catalyst for industrialization and export development, helping to steer Africa away from a model where growth is primarily driven by the export of primary commodities and natural resources. The Bank, headquartered in Cairo, the capital of the Arab Republic of Egypt, commenced operations on 30 September, 1994, following the signature of a Headquarters Agreement with the host Government in August 1994. It has branch offices in Harare, Abuja, and Abidjan.
About NYU Africa House and Development Research Institute (DRI)
NYU Africa House is an interdisciplinary institute devoted to the study of contemporary Africa, focusing on economic, political, and social issues on the continent and programs in the Arts. Part of Africa House’s core mission is to advance the understanding of the links between Africa and the rest of the world, through the social, historical, economic and other lenses. Related to this, we also have relationships with African immigrant communities in New York City. NYU has a large number of professors and students doing research in the areas of economic development, economic growth and macroeconomics, microfinance, analysis of the effectiveness of foreign aid, politics and political economy, and law and legal institutions. Africa House regularly convenes high-level talks and seminars and has in the past featured African heads of state. We also host policy luncheons and research discussion presentations on focused topics. Our programs take place in New York City and in various capitals in Africa.
Founded in 2006, the Development Research Institute (DRI) is devoted to rigorous, scholarly research on the economic development and growth of poor countries. DRI is an independent and non-partisan organization led by NYU Professors William Easterly and Yaw Nyarko, and is home to a growing team of researchers and students. In 2010, DRI’s accomplishments were recognized by a major international prize, the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award. In the category of development cooperation, DRI was recognized for our “contribution to the analysis of foreign aid provision, and…challenge to the conventional wisdom in development assistance.” The BBVA awards seek to recognize and encourage world-class research and artistic creation, prizing contributions of broad impact for their originality and theoretical significance.
Photo Credit: ©Goldman: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau