Banking on the Battlefield of Africa – Ismoila Alli-Balogun SVMP ’07

Make no mistake, Africa is not immune to the global economic crisis.


It’s been quite a humbling experience watching many events unfold over the past few months here in the Africa hub of the Renaissance Group. We leaned our workforce significantly, refined our strategy for Africa, streamlined our deal pipeline, and rebuilt our work teams. The economic tumult has been largely shared, shaken us all, and will ultimately leave a telling testament of how quickly things fall apart. No doubt, beginning my career in an economic time like this, and witnessing this all firsthand has been an unbelievable learning opportunity.


We have seen the Nigeria Stock Exchange wipe out shareholder value across the board, as many companies now trade at nearly 80% discount to their 52 week high. We have seen the Naira weaken considerably against the dollar, as the Central Bank of Nigeria intentionally mandated in a near desperate effort to attract foreign capital. Overall, we have seen the outlook for international credit, supposedly Africa–ound, head south…


In light of this all, however, I remain strikingly optimistic about Africa, knowing chaos favours the bold, the few, willing to make swift moves. Think of the CEO of a Ghanaian bank who ponders M&A, pursues it, then creating a domestic banking behemoth dead set on achieving sweeping market share in Sub Saharan Africa. Or the Telco operator in Kenya who, for the first time, exposes its balance sheet to foreign private equity players desperately seeking the final frontier for investment in a global economy increasingly drained of positive IRR. Or the local health care provider in Harare who, in light of the Zimbabwean economy soon becoming dollarized, embarks on a brave campaign calling all interested investors who dare to dream in the audacious promise of a corrected government. These examples are many, rich with potential, and are not smallbore. As a result, ensuring potential deals achieve seamless fruition is fast becoming the modus operandi here in Africa.


For me, it’s never been about beginning my career with any bulge or boutique investment bank, or beginning my career particularly with a Russia‐headquartered bank branched in Nigeria. Rather it’s been about being in and learning from a wellbranded investment bank that is purposed on leading Africa business with its feet on the battlefield of the most exciting markets in Africa. That’s why since my senior year at Baruch College I have been enthusiastic about kicking off my career with Renaissance Capital.


It’s exciting living and working in Lagos and my experience thus far has proved beyond expectation. In few words, Lagos is incredibly sweet. I am settled in the Africa Mergers & Acquisitions team, and getting intimate exposure to deals that in the near term will make Africa sing. This opportunity allows my close involvement in deals and discussions that will influence the economic climate in Africa for many years to come –the opportunity to make an impact in strengthening African companies, not just making them competitive locally, but building African market leaders, globally. I never could have imagined such satisfaction coming out of college; so I just thought I’d pick you out, specially, and share this good feeling with you.


Ismoila Alli‐Balogun participated in SVMP in 2007 and graduated from Baruch College in 2008. He is currently an analyst at Renaissance Group in Lagos, Nigeria.



[Back to news summary]