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On Africa Day, Access Holdings Celebrates Africa’s Greatness, Innovations and Achievements

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In line with the theme for the 2024 celebration of Africa Day, “Educate an African Fit for the 21st Century: Building Resilient Education Systems for Increased Access to Inclusive, Lifelong, Quality, and Relevant Learning in Africa”, Access Holdings is celebrating the positives across the continent. This year’s theme is a poignant reminder of Africa’s diversity and the need to address the educational challenges faced across the continent.

Africa is a vast and complex continent of over 1.2 billion people speaking more than 3,000 languages across 54 countries. Despite shared challenges, each nation contributes uniquely to the continent’s rich cultural and historical mosaic. Unfortunately, education remains a significant hurdle. According to UNESCO and the African Union, over a quarter of school-age children in Africa were out of school in 2023, and 90% of children were unable to read or write by age ten. This stark reality underscores the need for urgent educational reforms to equip future generations.

 

In alignment with this educational drive, Access Holdings will once again host the Access Bank/UNICEF Charity Shield Polo Tournament starting from the Children’s Day Anniversary on May 27, 2024, in Kaduna. This event, which will culminate at the Fifth Chukker Polo & Country Club on June 9, will bring together over 150 school pupils and their teachers for a day filled with sports, art activities, and messages promoting child welfare, such as “Stop Child Abuse” and “Childhood Isn’t Meant to Be a Nightmare.” As the largest charity polo tournament in Africa, this
event highlights Access Bank’s commitment to supporting underprivileged children, having donated over N700 million towards building schools and providing social amenities for surrounding communities in the past seven years. Beyond education, there are numerous aspects of African heritage and achievements that deserve celebration:

1. Angola: Known for its vast oil reserves, Angola is also home to the ancient Tchitundo-
Huluvilo Caves, a significant cultural landmark showcasing, prehistoric art.

2. Botswana: Celebrated for its stable democracy established by Sir Seretse Khama,
Botswana is also renowned for producing world-class athletes like Amantle Montsho, a
former world champion sprinter.

3. Cameroon: Home to the towering Mount Cameroon and the legendary musician Manu
Dibango, Cameroon has made significant contributions to global music and boasts rich
natural beauty.

4. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Known for its rich copper reserves and the
majestic Congo River, the DRC is also the birthplace of Patrice Lumumba, a pivotal figure
in Africa’s fight for independence.

5. Gambia: Famous for its beautiful beaches and vibrant culture, Gambia is also making
strides in education and tourism, becoming a notable destination in West Africa.

6. Ghana: A beacon of democracy and economic growth in West Africa, Ghana is also
celebrated for its rich history, including the Ashanti Kingdom and significant cultural
festivals.

7. Guinea: With its rich mineral resources, particularly bauxite, Guinea is also known for its
vibrant music and dance traditions that play a crucial role in cultural identity.

8. Kenya: Renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and wildlife, Kenya is a leader in
environmental conservation and home to world-renowned long-distance runners.

9. Mozambique: Known for its stunning coastline and rich cultural heritage, Mozambique
is also recognised for its vibrant arts scene, including music and dance.

10. Nigeria: Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria is celebrated for its diverse cultures,
Nollywood film industry, and significant contributions to literature and music, including
figures like Chinua Achebe and Fela Kuti. Nigeria is also home to Dangote Petroleum
Refinery, the continent’s largest petroleum refinery.

11. Rwanda: A symbol of resilience and progress, Rwanda has made remarkable strides in
economic development and technological innovation, becoming a model for other African
nations.
12. Sierra Leone: Known for its rich history and natural beauty, Sierra Leone is also making
progress in education and healthcare, contributing to a brighter future for its citizens.

13. South Africa: Famous for its stunning landscapes and diverse cultures, South Africa is
a global leader in mining and a symbol of freedom and reconciliation, epitomised by
Nelson Mandela.

14. Zambia: Renowned for its spectacular Victoria Falls, Zambia is also making significant
strides in economic development and conservation efforts.

Access Holdings is proud to operate in these African nations contributing uniquely to the continent’s narrative, from historical landmarks to modern achievements in various fields. As we continue to consolidate the discourse around the 2024 Africa Day theme, the Group calls on Africans to unite and invest in our incredible human resources even as we work to take our rightful place on the table of deliberations of global significance.

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Addressing False Information Alleging Impending Commercial Banking License Seizure and Bank Closure

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Recent industry occurrences have given rise to an influx of false information and propaganda targeted at causing unrest in the Nigerian financial services industry. Among this fake news is a WhatsApp messages alleging that a number of commercial banks stand at risk of losing their banking license and being closed; one of the banks mentioned was Wema Bank. We categorically confirm that this claim is FALSE and contrary to the reality of Wema Bank’s financial strength.

THE PREMISE
In a statement allegedly signed by The National Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners/Federal Civil Service Pensioners (NUP/FCSP), Abuja Branch, Wema Bank was mentioned as one of the commercial banks slated for impending license seizure by the CBN. The statement further urged pensioners and by extension the public, to relinquish their Wema Bank accounts and adopt other banks not listed in the statement, as a “proactive step against being caught in the web of the impending closure of the mentioned banks”.

THE TRUTH
Wema Bank is of sound financial health and at no risk of license seizure or closure. Our financial performance showcases financial strength and stability, as validated by stakeholders and auditors at our 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM); a feat we have achieved despite Nigeria’s economic fluctuations. In addition, we are moving ahead to meet the N200bn minimum capital requirement stipulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria for a commercial bank license with national authorization. We have raised an additional N40bn in fresh capital over the past months and are on the path to meet the target within 18 months.

Our financial strength is evident not only in our 2023 financial report and Q1 2023 financial results but also in our growth trends over the past years, which ascertain that we are equipped to continue thriving. As reported in our FY 2023 Audited financial results, our financials grew strongly in the past year with a 196% increase in Profit Before Tax (PBT) from N14.75bn to N43.59bn, 220.4% increase in Profit After Tax (PAT) from N11.21bn to N33.66bn, 70.63% increase in Gross Earnings from N132.30bn to N225.75, 53.64% increase in Loans disbursed from N521.43bn to N801.10bn, 26% increase in Capital Adequacy Ratio from N12.74bn to N16.04bn and a remarkable 220.53% increase in Earnings per share from N87.2 to N279.5, among other successful upturns. Our Non-Performing Loan rate also stands at 4.31%, one of the lowest in the industry.

Furthermore, our stable financial future has been recently verified by the Pan-African rating agency Agusto & Co, who recently upgraded our rating to Bbb+ with ESG Score of 2 and confirmation of stable outlook. Despite financial headwinds, our Q1 2024 financial results show that we are on track to equal and/or surpass our 2023 results by the end of 2024.

In view of our positive financial record and solid financial standing, the claims made are not only 100% false but also unsubstantial and have no grounds or basis for consideration.

MEASURES TAKEN

With confidence in our financial standing and stable outlook, we have petitioned the security officials to invite NUP for questioning and will be taking legal action on the perpetrator(s) of this libelous statement.

Wema Bank is firm in its commitment to providing optimum returns for every stakeholder, and we will not condone the circulation of false information that could potentially cause panic in the country.
As we follow through with stringent measures to hold the creators(s) of this allegation accountable, we take this moment to confirm categorically that Wema Bank is well equipped to continue serving our customers as a commercial Bank with National banking authorization, keep up the positive trends as we expand our reach and continue to provide all our shareholders and stakeholders with optimum returns.

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The Remarkable Journey of Access Holdings

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This year marks 22 years since two young Nigerian bankers – Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe – bought a small, nondescript bank and turned it into one of the biggest financial institutions on the continent with footprint also established in Europe and Asia. It was on March 22, 2002, that the two walked into Plot 1669 Oyin Jolayemi Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, which was then the corporate headquarters of the bank to assume duty and full control as the Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director. The acquisition process had taken about two years and entailed rigorous negotiations, and countless hours of working through documentation. It was one of the most audacious takeovers in the history of the nation’s financial industry. Indeed, the phenomenal growth of the Access Group has become an inspiring success story.

Shortly after the takeover, Access Bank embarked on a five-year transformation agenda, and two years into the plan, the CBN announced the N25 billion capitalisation deadline set for end of December 2005. The institution’smanagement went to work, raising the required capital and developing the impetus to seek opportunities for possible mergers and acquisitions. Recognising the opportunity that existed to build scale, the institutionmobilised its workforce and quickly raised N15 billion viaa public offer, acquired two other small banks, Capital Bank Ltd. and Marina International Bank Ltd., and convinced FMO, the Netherland development finance company, to become an institutional investor through the conversion of a $15 million term loan it had earlier givento the bank. With the N25 billion capitalisation met and surpassed, the race to the top became a fixed goal to the new owners. They then embarked on aggressive drive to raise money both from local and foreign capital markets.

Between 2006 and 2007, Access Bank raised a local bond issue of N11.9 billion and in 2007 it raised N136 billion in public offerings, including a highly successful and oversubscribed GDR (global depository receipt) and established Access Bank UK. In June 2008, the beginning of the second five-year transformation plan, every action was geared at taking the institution to the top. Between 2009 and 2011, the bank passed CBN’s special audit on governance, liquidity and capital adequacy conducted under the tough-talking Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. Three major achievements were also recorded. The bank was awarded IFC Sustainable Bank of the Year; it acquired Intercontinental Bank and was ranked the fourth largest bank in Nigeria as a result of the acquisition.

With these successes, a huge surge of confidence and can-do spirit have by now swept through the entire workforce. Staffers went through a rigorous process of reorientation and change of the bank’s vision and mission; and with business combination with Intercontinental completed in 2012, management staff assumed bigger roles and responsibilities. Access Bank became one of the favourite places to work for bankers from other institutions. The bank was enjoying the pulsating work pace and dynamic work environment, enthralled in seeing the dream of being in the top five becoming a reality year after year.

That same 2012 and spanning 2013, the bank raised $350 million Eurobond in the international market and divested from non-banking subsidiaries. It was also designated as a significant important financial institution by the CBN, one of the very few in the industry. This means a recognition of its huge footprint in the economy, the integrity and respect of its leaders and the fact that the bank could not be allowed to fail under any circumstance. It is for this reason that the CBN recently intervened in the board and management composition of one bank. Another huge milestone came in 2014 when Access Bank issued $400 million subordinated note (tier 2 bond) and transited into a large, diversified banking institution.

In January 2014, Herbert Wigwe assumed duty as the Group Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, after the retirement of Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. With enormous goodwill and attractive brand equity, the bank continued to outpace its contemporaries. In 2017, it further shored up its capital by raising N42 billion through rights issue and issued another $300 million subordinated note.

But it was its merger with Diamond Bank in 2018 that catapulted Access Bank to the number one slot in at least some parameters: assets and retail business with 646 branches. It also recorded the biggest channel touchpoints: 38 million cards; 3,000 ATMs and 34,000 POS terminals. In 2019, Access bank issued the first green bond in Nigeria. In 2020, it expanded its African business into Kenya and Mozambique and became the first Nigerian bank to set up shop in South Africa. A few weeks ago, the South African ambassador to Nigeria was on TV commending the bank for establishing a branch in his country.

In 2022, Access Bank marked the final year of its previous five-year strategy, which focused on building Africa’s gateway to the world, through the deployment of robust risk management practices, and a flawless execution of its strategic priorities. By all key metrics, the strategy was successfully executed as the bank grew its scale to span over 6,000 dedicated professional staff serving over 52 million customers across 17 markets worldwide.

In the second half of 2022, Access Bank was restructured into a Holding Company – birthing Access Holdings – to realise the potential of the synergies from the various businesses, while expanding product offering to customers in payments, insurance, consumer finance and pensions.

True to plan, Access Holdings, in 2023, launched its operations in Paris, setting the tone for a robust long-term goal across the Northern Hemisphere. The Group has also strategically ventured into new territories, bringing its expertise, resources, and innovative solutions to areas with immense growth potential. These strategic moves exemplify the company’s vision to be a pan-African force, contributing to economic development across borders. Through its subsidiaries, the institution has played a pivotal role in sectors ranging from finance and banking to agriculture, technology, and healthcare, bringing diverse opportunities to the communities it serves.

In countries where Access Holdings has established a presence, the institution has become a driving force for job creation and entrepreneurship. Access Holdings has sown the seeds of sustainable economic development by supporting Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), investing in local businesses, and providing financial solutions tailored to the needs of each market.

The company’s ability to adapt its business model to the unique dynamics of each African market sets it apart, as it recognises that Africa is not a monolithic entity, but a collection of diverse economies with distinct challenges and opportunities. Through its expansion strategy, the institution tailors its approach to address the specific needs of each region, contributing to a more inclusive and holistic development across the continent.

Commencing in the second half of 2024, the Group’s Africa and international expansion strategy will enter the consolidation and efficiency phase, aligning with the institution’s five-year plan to accelerate the attainment of its 2027 strategic objectives.

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ZENITH BANK EMERGES AS THE MOST SUSTAINABLE BANK IN NIGERIA IN THE INTERNATIONAL BANKER AWARDS 2024 FOR THE SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR

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Zenith Bank

Zenith Bank Plc has been named the “Most Sustainable Bank, Nigeria” in the International Banker 2024 Banking Awards, retaining the title for the second consecutive year.

Commenting on the award, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank, Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, OON, said: “We are deeply honoured to be recognised as the Most Sustainable Bank in Nigeria for the second time in a row. This prestigious award underscores our steadfast commitment to sustainability and reinforces our belief that responsible banking is essential for long-term success and societal impact.”

She dedicated the award to the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Dr. Jim Ovia, CFR. She lauded the Bank’s stakeholders for their commitment and unwavering support in ensuring that Zenith remains a highly successful institution. She said, “This remarkable achievement is a testament to the visionary and impactful leadership of our Founder and Chairman, Dr. Jim Ovia, CFR. His exceptional foresight and dedication have been the cornerstone of our success. His ability to inspire and guide with strategic acumen has been instrumental in steering Zenith Bank to new heights. Along with the strategic guidance of our esteemed Board members, the unwavering commitment of our ever-diligent staff, and the steadfast support of our loyal customers, Dr. Ovia’s leadership has been pivotal in transforming our sustainability initiatives into a reality. We owe this success to his relentless pursuit of excellence and his deep-seated commitment to redefining the banking landscape in Nigeria.”

This recognition reaffirms Zenith Bank’s position as a trailblazer in sustainable banking practices, setting a benchmark for excellence within the Nigerian banking industry and beyond. The Bank has been a leader in monitoring and reporting sustainability impact. Since becoming the first Bank in Africa to publish a stand-alone sustainability report in accordance with the GRI Standards: Core Option in 2016, Zenith Bank has consistently published assured stand-alone sustainability reports. The Bank is one of the few institutions in Nigeria that tracks its carbon emissions using a certified tool built on the internationally recognised Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol.

Zenith Bank is deeply committed to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) values, subscribing to the Triple Bottom Line principle, which encompasses People, Planet, and Profit. As a leading financial institution that services various sectors of the economy, the Bank considers Environmental and Social (E&S) risk management critical to its sustainability strategy.

Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has continued to earn the brand numerous awards, including being recognised as Best Bank in Nigeria for the fourth time in five years, from 2020 to 2022 and in 2024, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; the Best Bank for Digital Solutions in Nigeria in the Euromoney Awards 2023; being listed in the World Finance Top 100 Global Companies in 2023; being recognised as the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital for the 14th consecutive year in the 2023 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2021 to 2023 in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022 and 2023; Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and 2022; Best in Corporate Governance Financial Services Africa for four successive years from 2020 to 2023 by the Ethical Boardroom; Most Sustainable Bank, Nigeria in the International Banker 2023 Banking Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation in Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards.

Additionally, the Bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021; Bank of the Year 2023 and Retail Bank of the Year for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022 at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards. Similarly, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020, Bank of the Year 2021 by Champion Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2022 by New Telegraph Newspaper, and Most Responsible Organisation in Africa 2021 by SERAS.

Published by Finance Publishing Limited, the International Banker Magazine, United Kingdom, is a leading global source of authoritative analysis and opinion on banking, finance and world affairs. Its influence, integrity, accuracy and objective opinion have earned it global recognition. The International Banker Awards strive to recognise the most worthyfinancial institutions around the world – those not just doing their jobs well but exceptionally well – those operating at the industry’s cutting edge and setting new performance levels to which others will aspire. The 2024 Banking Awards focused on various criteria, including the provision of much-needed capital for economic growth, cutting-edge innovation to enhance security and efficiency, commitment to sustainability and ESG principles, as well as intelligent investing to maximise profits and shareholder value.

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