The time is 6:02AM, the year 2026, the location Lagos Financial City. Fatima Abouzeid flails at her digital personal assistant to silence the alarm, which in return flashes her a miffed/not-miffed emoji and starts to warble the main news headlines of the day.
“Markets in Shanghai closed up today on news that the Chinese bullet train manufacturer Fujian Corp won the contract to connect Casablanca to Abidjan… Shares in Echobank rose after chief executive Rosa Lawal suggested the Lagos-based lender might consider a sweetened buyout bid from an interested consortium of Nigerian and South African banks… Energy supplier AfriMaterials announces a new solar farm next to the industrial estate of Tema… And don’t forget your 7:30 with Mr Solarin.”
Fatima sighs and rolls over. “Dammit. Dammit!” Lawal was playing with her. A veteran of the long war between the mobile phone companies and the banks on the continent, Abouzeid is now in the frontline of a new battle. The Nigerian/South African consortium and her own consolidated NorthAfricaBank are struggling to be top dog in the financial landscape. Echobank was the last big player up for grabs, and she had flown there to sound them out. It looked like she had company…
This is, of course, fantasy. There is no way a bullet train will soon cross the Sahara. The rest is in the realm of possibility. Technology, consolidation, fast-rising urban centres and changing industrial structures will all reshape African banks. So who will survive, and who will thrive?