By Kehinde Olaosebikan
Just like rose with its thorns, the sweet and beautiful world we live in, is with its vicissitudes. As humans, the homo Sapiens evolved from creation, making the best use of the fauna and flora of the world and engaging their superior knowledge and intelligence above other creatures for development, so exist natural upheavals mostly out of their control. They come in form of storms, thunder and lightning flashing down from the skies, striking the earth; hurricane and Tsunamis that make the seas swell and rise up like a dreadful monster, destroying everything in their path. It come in form of earthquakes and landslides that send powerful tremors through the earth crust causing monumental damages; volcanoes eruption, spitting fires of death with streams of hot lava annihilating every living thing in its trail; shipwrecks etc.
Yet, there are man-made storms – self-inflicted injuries that have burdened humanity with misery. Accidents caused by negligence and human error or frailty, wars and anarchies caused by inflammatory words. Reckless behavior, violent temperament, caustic pride, arrogance, brazen oppressive use of power, intolerance, greed, selfish reasoning and anger.
Interestingly, in all these, life still finds equilibrium. Even in chaotic situation; after every negative comes a positive situation; after the frightening, rumbling thunderstorms often comes the refreshing rain; after the roaring hurricane and the destructive tsunami often comes the gentle breeze that seems to kiss the earth, soothing her troubled soul; after every chilly and cold winter that seems to freeze life to death comes a restoration of a new life in Spring.
Nature tells us a parable of the paradox of life that, in spite of the frightening flashes of storms, there are stabilizers, restorers, reformers and revitalisers even within the disturbances and they have always been there, to restore sanity and peace, often silent, innocuous but sure, steady and steadfast. Usually very few, rare, one or two in a generation, they, like the prophets of old, are sent to guide their people, after blundering and fumbling in the dark alley into the light.
Through the several storms of global business including the unending COVID-19 pandemic, one man has emerged as the stabiliser and revitaliser of our time, repairing damaged intercontinental business relations, restoring trust among nations and continents, providing proactive solutions to pandemics, engendering strength for global business, fostering oneness in Africa and the universe, generally revitalising global trade and pulling off greater peace and progress for the entire world.
He was first, formally recognized as one by no less a personality than Mr Viladmir Putin, the President of the largest country in the world and the second most powerful leader on earth after ascertaining the person responsible for the restoration and revitalisation of the comatose trade and business between Russia and Africa.
Precisely on November 4, 2019, President Putin honoured the Nigeria-born Professor Benedict Okey Oramah, the incumbent President and Chairman of Board of Directors of the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) with the prestigious Russian National honour of ‘The Order of Friendship’ in Kremlin, Moscow.
Bestowing the esteemed national honor on Oramah, President Vladimir Putin declared: “It is in recognition of the role played by Afreximbank (under Oramah) revitalising trade and economic relations between Africa and Russia as evident in the success of the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum held in Sochi, Russia Federation, between 23 and 24 October and the rapidly rising trade and investment relations between Russia and Africa.”
The Federation of Russia, the second most powerful country in the world, saw accomplishment in the feats of Professor Oramah beyond his stellar performance in Afreximbank. It recognised and subsequently honored him for adding value to humanity and the global economy. Russia gave the credit of the “rapid rise” in prosperity in Africa and Russia to the role of Professor Oramah in invigorating trade and investment relations between the African continent and Russia. An uncommon global feat, largely unprecedented!
The Order of Friendship is a state decoration established by Boris Yeltsin, the first President of the Russian Federation and is awarded to Russian and foreign nationals for special merit in strengthening peace, friendship, cooperation and understanding between nations and peoples.
Previous winners of the honour include former US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson; former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathis Mohammad and former United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki- Moon
Conquering another storm, Professor Okey Oramah won for the second time, the African Banker of the Year in May this year for the leading role he played in mitigating the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on African economy and business. According to the African Banker Magazine, Oramah has grown Afreximbank’s balance sheet and “making it one of the leading banks in the world in terms of its response to COVID-19 by providing the much-needed liquidity and solutions to vaccine acquisition. The award recognizes Professor Oramah’s contributions in championing an African owned fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Afreximbank’s boss served as the chair of the Board of Trustees of the African Union COVID 19 Respond Fund. He is also coordinating grants for mobilisation and efficient utilisation across Africa as well coordinating the efficient procurement and distribution of medical materials among African countries. Professor Oramah is also leading other continental and private sector initiatives to scale up Africa’s health and economic response to the pandemic
He won the award first in 2017 for his pilot role in creating conducive conditions so that businesses in Africa could take advantage of the AfCTFA.
For the current stabilising role being played by the Oramah-led Africa Export-Import Bank on the effects of the Ukraine-Russia war on Africa and the world through the introduction of Ukraine Crisis Adjustment Trade Financing for Africa (UKAFPA) with a worth of $4 billion, two major rating organisations of the world have just upgraded the ratings of Afreximbank.
Opening was Fitch Ratings that upgraded Afreximbank Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB- ‘The Outlook is Stable on June 23 this year. Fitch also upgraded Afreximbank’s Short Term IDR to F2 from F3 and the long-term ratings on the bank’s Global Medium-Term Note Program and debt issuances to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB-.’
A month later on July 22, another rating company, Global Credit Rating (GCR) for similar reasons announced the upgrade of the bank under the leadership of Oramah international scale long- term issuer rating from A- to A, Stable Outlook.
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In tandem with Fitch, GCR declared “the many initiatives that Afreximbank has undertaken over the last couple of years, including the recently introduced Ukraine Crisis Adjustment Trade Financing Program for Africa (UKAFPA) worth $4 billion on a net basis, will continue to be a strong underpin of relevance and importance to its shareholders.”
To earn the new ratings, Oramah has proactively fortified his bank and indirectly African trade and economy against the consequences of the Ukraine war.
In his just seven years of leadership in Afreximbank, Professor Oramah has taken the bank to a level never envisaged by its progenitors. Within this short period, the balance sheet of Afreximbank grew from $5 billion to $25 billion, a phenomenal 400 per cent leap in growth and year-on-year double digit return to shareholders that span across the globe.
And just few weeks ago in Barbados, the Caribbeans, at the first ever Afri-Caribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF), Professor Okey Oramah led the Board of Directors and Management of Afreximbank to sign a historic Memorandum of Understanding with the International Trade Centre to continue facilitating the collaboration between the two institutions in harmonising efforts for the promotion of trade and economic development. Specifically, the MoUis intended at promoting African-Caribbean Trade, trade finance, addressing climate change, MSMEs and intra African trade. All this happening now, 500 years after such mutually benefitting positive engagements last occurred between Africa and The Caribbean.
For his numerous noble accomplishments across the world and for being a super ambassador of his home country, Nigeria, in his career and service to humanity, Professor Oramah was some days ago decorated with the Nigeria’s national honor of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Exemplifying brilliant leadership, capacity and faith in achieving an unequalled growth for the 29 years old African Export-Import Bank, Professor Benedict Okey Oramah, has in the last seven years invigorated Afreximbank in all aspects, providing the world with solutions to natural and non-natural upheavals, calming the storms in the business world and fitting as the mostoutstanding Beacon of Life for Africa and the Universe of this time.
Olaosebikan is a public relations practitioner based in Abuja, Nigeria.