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Analysis
OMFIF's links to Africa

OMFIF's links to Africa

Mixed picture as Nigeria leaves recession

by Joel Kibazo in London

Wed 10 Jan 2018

Some may remember Idi Amin, the bloodthirsty dictator of my country, Uganda, in the 1970s. At a state banquet in his honour at Buckingham Palace, he turned to the Queen and, alarmingly, promised 'revenge' when she next visited Uganda.

All I can say is her majesty stayed shy of my beloved country for 35 years until 2007, when I was part of a team that helped arrange her visit for the Commonwealth heads of state meeting.

You may well ask what all this has to do with OMFIF. I must say this wonderful organisation has been a thread through my life for the last eight years and in some ways even before its creation.

It was in a bid to escape the clutches of Idi Amin that I ended up living in the UK. That course of events led me, after university, to the august institution of the Financial Times, where I met David Marsh.

Some years later, in summer 2009, we found ourselves at an FT reunion in a London pub. Here the seeds of OMFIF's creation – and my becoming an advisory board member – were sown.

I well remember the first meeting, at the Deutsche Bundesbank in March 2010. There I met an executive from an Africa-focused asset management group that subsequently became an OMFIF member.

I started advising the group and, a few years later, when I had stopped being an adviser, a former employee played a crucial role in recruiting me to my role of director of communications at the African Development Bank in Tunis and later Abidjan. I worked there with the likes of Prof. Mthuli Ncube, whom many of you will have come across as he is now an OMFIF board member.

When I returned to the UK in 2016, I was amazed how what started in a brief discussion in the pub had turned into a great think tank. OMFIF has been making a strong contribution to helping us better understand some of the complex issues in the complicated world of today.

It really is a great tribute to all of you, but particularly to David Marsh and Lord Meghnad Desai, for driving things forward.

Nothing cheered me up more than getting an invitation from an International Monetary Fund official while in Washington earlier this year to an OMFIF event, 'a group you really should get to know', as the official put it to me. I did not spoil his day by admitting I knew OMFIF.

Its reach is global. A few months ago I found myself sitting in a bar in Ahmedabad in India, the country of my birth, with Adam Cotter, OMFIF's Singapore-based head of Asia, discussing the work of the group across that continent.

But, even more than that, imagine my joy at seeing how my beloved continent has been brought into the OMFIF fold, in meetings, events and publications such as the Barclays Africa Group Financial Markets Index.
OMFIF takes Africa's issues and people seriously. These are worthy of debate in trying to explain the issues that affect public pension funds, central banks, sovereign funds, regulators and treasuries.

Africa remains a mixed picture economically. Nigeria is out of recession, but South Africa continues to bump along the bottom. Politics has been a great test in both Kenya and Zimbabwe.

My hope is that the continent will remain on the OMFIF agenda. It is one of the few places where economic policy and public investment issues will be treated with the seriousness of purpose they deserve.

Who says nothing good can come out of a good session at the pub?

This is an edited version of a speech made by Joel Kibazo at the OMFIF Christmas dinner on 15 December 2017. Kibazo, a former diplomat and journalist, is Founding Partner of JK Associates, a London-based public affairs consultancy focusing on Africa, and a member of the OMFIF Advisory Board. He is a former associate Fellow on The Africa Programme at Chatham House, and a committee member of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford.

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