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News Update (November 30, 2009 01:41 PM...)

AFC appoints new chairman


Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a regional investment bank set up in 2007 with the instrument of the Central Bank of Nigeria has appointed Bayo Ogunlesi, a former senior Credit Suisse investment banker as its new chairman.

Bayo Ogunlesi, a founder of the $5.64 billion Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) fund, is replacing former central bank governor Professor Chukwuma Soludo, under whose supervision the AFC was created.

Soludo who left the CBN in May when a second term was not approved for him by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has since joined the race for the governorship election in Anambra next year.

Industry analysts see Ogunlesi appointment as a move to boost its independence from the public sector.

The AFC, which has a capital base of more than $1 billion and is backed by Nigeria's central bank and leading banks, was set up in early 2007 as a regional investment bank to spearhead infrastructure funding around the continent.

"My role ... will provide a unique opportunity for me to contribute to the development of Africa by helping to build what I am sure will become a leading force in the financing of infrastructure assets on the continent," Ogunlesi said.

The Nigeria-based bank had a rocky start. It sacked its president in 2008 after failing to start a single project more than a year after its creation, but since then has provided tens of millions of dollars in project financing.

It is a lead investor in an equity financing deal for a $240 million fibre-optic cable to provide internet and telecoms to West Africa and is also the main African participant in a seveb-year $750 million financing for the development of Ghana's Jubilee oilfield, one of the largest recent finds in West Africa.

Before Global Infrastructure Partners, Ogunlesi was executive vice chairman and chief client officer of Credit Suisse's investment banking division. Analysts said his appointment should bring additional credibility to the AFC.

"I think his appointment as chairman brings global knowledge and expertise to the operations of the AFC," said Temitope Oshikoya, a former AFC chief economist who resigned last year.

"The AFC has a good mission ... what it needs to do now is to define its unique competitive advantage compared to the World Bank, African Development Bank and other investment banks."

Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), founded by Credit Suisse and General Electric Co, won permission from the European Commission last week to buy London's Gatwick Airport, a major infrastructure transaction.

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