Tidjane Thiam, the renowned French-Ivorian banking titan, has been appointed by government of Rwanda as board chair of agency charged with mobilizing much-needed investment cash.
Thiam resigned as CEO of Credit Suisse in February after a damaging scandal in which he is said to have authorised massive spying program on former executives of the Swiss bank.
Rwanda’s cabinet, chaired by President Paul Kagame on Wednesday evening, endorsed Thiam, 58, as board chair for the Rwanda Finance Ltd.
Established in 2018, RFL though a government entity, operates through a unique independent mechanism. Its literature says it is supposed to find financing from non-traditional sources.
Basically, with Rwanda lacking in minerals, a small size, landlocked and in a volatile neighborhood, the country needs to do the unthinkable to find cash and investments.
Thiam seems to the right person for the challenging role. After joining Credit Suisse in 2015, Thiam led the banking giant to rack in EUR 4.4bn ($5.2billion) profit for 2019 alone, a whooping 40% increase from the previous year.
This Credit Suisse profit level is basically nearly twice Rwanda’s 2020-2021 budget of $3.43bn.
There is another element that Tidjane Thiam brings to Rwanda. He is said to be a close confidant of French President Emmanuel Macron, and the President is reported to be considering him to replace embattled Ivory Coast leader Alassane Ouattara to keep French influence over the country.
It comes as Macron and Kagame have enjoyed an unusually good relationship despite years of a bitter public fight between Kagame’s government and France’s establishment over the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Either side accuses the other of differing degrees of responsibility in the genocide.
Ouattara is facing an internal revolt and protests after winning a highly divisive third term last month. Ouattara changed the constitution to remove term limits. A chosen successor died in mysterious circumstances, which the authorities said was a heart attack.
The ex-Credit Suisse Thiam has also been linked to the opposition movement, meaning he could get a powerful role should they take power, or even himself being the leader.
Thiam served in Côte d’Ivoire’s government in 1998 until a military coup one year later, and is French-educated and maintains close Élysée ties. However, his French passport is said to be a huge impediment for him to be able to run for president in Côte d’Ivoire.
Tidjane Thiam joins another Ivorian Eric Kacou in Rwandq, who was appointed to board of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) this past June.