A few weeks ago, I was at our annual East Africa Treasury Forum in Nairobi meeting our members and reinforcing the presence of the ACT and the role of the treasury function in the region.
After my short welcome giving the audience an overview about the ACT and what we do, and some opening remarks from our very able chair, Sydney Wechuli of the Nairobi Securities Exchange, we had an exciting and informative opening keynote from Standard Chartered’s Africa Strategist, Eva Wanjiku Otieno, who talked about key economic factors worldwide from the changing strategy of the US Federal Reserve to reduced interest rate rises, to the lack of progress in the ongoing US-China trade talks and questioning the state of the uncertain global economy.
After this stimulating discussion, we then moved onto a panel discussion looking at the changing role of treasury in the region, chaired by treasurer at the African Guarantee Fund, Eugene Banja. Jubilee Insurance’s Benson Muhoro described that there are so many solutions from banks and others that can reduce turnaround time, though there are still plenty of challenges including allocating all the individual payments to the right place.
Benson also mentioned that it was his boss that encouraged him to undertake ACT learning, and that he is trying to also support the team in the training – at which point Eugene highlighted the number of courses that the ACT provides to enhance treasury skills.
The second panel of the day addressed the issue of managing the complexities of cash and liquidity management while moving towards a more sophisticated system. Webcor Group’s Mona Lockett and PwC’s Andries Fourie contributed to a lively discussion.
Trade finance was the next topic of the day, moderated by Farida Abbas, CEO of the British Chamber of Commerce Kenya. It was highlighted that Kenya is taking a lead in sharing information in the region. Gulf Energy’s Paul Sila highlighted the need to look at how corporates are trading, but noted the difficulty in getting data without relying on the organisations themselves. Standard Chartered’s Patrick Makau also highlighted the need to look at the data.
Following lunch, the audience separated into two different tracks for a range of content and technical discussions on some of the specific challenges in treasury today, including anti-money laundering that was addressed by Kenya Railways’ Louis Owoko who explained the concept of smurfing – moving to avoid the triggering of legally required FI reports. In another of the track sessions I interviewed the CEO of Standard Chartered Tanzania, Sanjay Rughani, about how to become a CEO (more on that in a separate blog!).
The final discussion of the event focusing on a theme that had been running throughout the day: the importance of technology, and its role in the future of treasury.
Financial innovation and transformation architect, Rianna Postma described how blockchain enables a new form of communication. Glen Davies of FIS described a new product – a web-based application – for large companies that, for example, want to consolidate all payments and so can update accounts without going into so many different portals. Safaricom’s. Patrick Nduati Njuguna stressed the need to create value for the customer.
Sydney closed the day with a summary of what was an informative and thought-provoking day.
Thank you to all who took part in this enjoyable and, most importantly, useful day for highlighting and developing the treasury function in East Africa. I look forward to meeting many more of our members at the ACT events that will run throughout the year.