It has not been long since I embarked on my interim chairmanship journey at AfrAsia Bank and I am honoured to have been given the privilege to pen down my message for this year’s Annual Report. First and foremost, I would like to thank the former Board members for their contribution to the sustained financial performance of the Bank during their tenure. Following the last shareholders’ meeting and regulatory approvals, our new Board has been constituted and I am humbled to be elected as the interim Chairperson. I am confident that my fellow Directors will each bring complementary skills and experience which will collectively position AfrAsia Bank to achieve its ambition of heightened growth and business transformation.
Throughout its thirteen years of operations, AfrAsia Bank has had an exceptional journey and is today recognised as one of the domestic systemically important bank in Mauritius. The Bank has garnered a reputation of accompanying its clients and the community through the toughest of times and 2020 has been no exception. The World has and is still facing one of the boldest crises ever. Our sincere gratitude goes to the Mauritian authorities for their commendable efforts in successfully navigating COVID-19. We keep in our thoughts those who have been hit hard and those who are still striving to win the battle. Last but not least, I would like to express my appreciation for the incredible character and commitment of the whole team for facing these times of adversity with grit and fortitude.
INDERJIT SINGH BEDI
Global Economic Landscape
The financial year 2019-2020 has been marked by sharp socioeconomic, geopolitical, and environmental events globally. Amidst growing concerns of decelerating worldwide growth, we have experienced precarious geopolitical and macroeconomic conditions which have induced international interest rate headwinds and market volatility. Then came Brexit, followed by a deepening of the US-China trade war through the emergence of protectionist measures, a record precipitous crude oil crash, global bushfires and eventually, an unprecedented pandemic which carried the seed of an economic crisis. Undeniably, the Great Lockdown has triggered one of the most concerning recessions, with a forecasted global contraction to exceed 4% in 2020. Yet, the full extent of the significant economic fallout is yet to be comprehensively fathomed.
In the face of these phenomena, Mauritius leveraged on its resilience, adaptability and agility, and successfully weathered this sanitary predicament whilst containing its economic contagion. AfrAsia Bank’s diversified and integrated business model has and is conferring us the ability and nimbleness to continuously serve our customers across all operating geographic areas whilst keeping a key focus on innovatively driving sustainable growth.
Performance, Capital Structure and Dividend
Despite a challenging year, AfrAsia Bank has recorded a satisfactory performance for the financial year 2019-2020 with our Group’s Net Profit after Tax reaching MUR 1.5bn and a return on average equity of 21%. The Bank’s prudent approach and customer-centric strategy has led to a notable growth of 14% in our Total Assets, valued at MUR 160.5bn as at June 2020. During the financial year 2019-2020, dividends of MUR 3.80 per share were paid to ordinary shareholders whilst total dividends paid to Class A shareholders, under the programme memorandum, amounted to MUR 147.4m. With a capital base of MUR 8.4bn and a capital adequacy ratio of 15.15%, AfrAsia Bank remains robust and resilient.
Engineering Local and Regional Recovery
We are presently in a dynamic environment that will experience multiple changes post the recent regulatory, technological and socioeconomic evolution. Banks remain an essential component of the ecosystem and we will have a decisive role to play in this economic recovery.
Enjoying an array of strategic advantages, Mauritius has successfully positioned itself as an International Financial Centre for over 25 years now. It is undisputable that the economic fallout from last year’s events will have a bearing on regional flows. The classification of Mauritius as a High Risk Third Country by the EU as from 1st October 2020 entails reputational, business and operational risks and the impending impacts are to be closely monitored. However, therein lies the opportunity for us to have a 360-degree assessment of our ecosystem and fortify areas such as transaction monitoring and enhanced due diligence to deepen our alignment to international best practices. We remain confident that with a collaborative approach with all relevant stakeholders, Mauritius will come out stronger as an International Financial Centre.
The unique COVID-19 situation has mandated a one-of-a-kind Government intervention, who announced multiple measures to reboot the economy post COVID-19 in its 2020 Budget. This was complemented by the Bank of Mauritius’ monetary policy in the guise of its COVID-19 Special Relief Programme and the setting up of the Mauritius Investment Corporation Ltd (MIC) as a Special Purpose Vehicle in view of ensuring that systemic economic operators are kept afloat and jobs are preserved. To further reinforce Mauritius’ position as a regional Investment Hub, an expansionary fiscal policy is likely to be effective in the current circumstances. Additionally, the imminent challenge or rather opportunity of leveraging on our extensive Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements network will be as to how we harness the additional value to be yielded from these bilateral relationships on a country-to-country level to propel economic growth.
The Bank commits itself in playing its role in powering up economic recovery for the region by being a key enabler for investment flows and mobilising adequate resources for a more inclusive growth. Our focus will remain on our three primary markets: Africa, Asia and Europe. Africa is a powerhouse whose potential is to be harnessed by combining the right expertise and know-how with an enhanced public-private partnership. Asia is a torchbearer for developing countries; the continent’s advanced technical know-how and digital mindset are a valuable learning for us whilst we replicate their successful strategies based on our cultural similarities. In so far as Europe is concerned, the regionalisation of European countries’ activities to leverage competitive costs makes Mauritius an attractive hub for their offshoring needs.
Way Ahead – Our Future Strategy
Underpinned by the Bank’s 4 strategic pillars – customer focus, teamwork, innovation and sustainability – we look ahead to a year of prudent growth through a deep transformational process that has been catalysed by the recent pandemic. Leveraging our robust capital base, a conservative balance sheet and an inclusive organisational culture, the Board and the Management remain committed to stimulate a more seamless synergy amongst the business lines and a reinforced alignment of our business aspirations with customer expectations.
The Bank will continue on its journey towards excellence. Whilst continually reinforcing our corporate governance structure, our principles of ethics and our prudent risk framework, we will draw on our shareholders’ commitment to fortify our foothold and our motivated team to take head on the new challenges awaiting us. Our focus will remain on exploring deeper business avenues in Africa, Asia and the rest of the world while exploring new opportunities and platforms to enhance our customer experience through innovative technologies.
Our 2019-2020 financials testify our solidity and stability, and this strongly positions us to combine our financial performance with creating value for society. Yet, we are merely a link in the chain. The keyword this year will be “collective reconstruction”. In a context rendered tougher by the Great Lockdown, we will witness a heightened importance of accepting individual and collective responsibility under the umbrella of a global coordinated response. I am certain that through a staunch collaboration between the Government, the private sector and the community at large, we will get through the challenges awaiting us ahead, undoubtedly stronger than we have been.
I would like to thank all our stakeholders for their trust in us. Thank you to the management team and all the dedicated employees of the Bank who uphold in the realest sense our ‘Bank Different’ philosophy to deliver an innovative and sustainable customer experience.
Should you need a paper copy of AfrAsia Bank’s Sustainability Report 2019, please contact the Corporate Sustainability and CSR Team at
(+230) 403 5500.
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