In service of my country
My name is Dorian Zohou. I’m Ivorian. I’m the new investment officer for the West Africa liaison office.
Since I was a little boy, I loved numbers. I always had a thing for the sciences and math.
My mother wanted me to become a banker. My father didn’t want me to study in France, as he did. He wanted me to stand out and go to a North American university. That is why I applied to the Sherbrooke University in Quebec. Even though my application was successful, my visa fell through, preventing me from going. At that time, I had a cousin in India who had often praised the Indian educational system, and who finally managed to convince me. That is how I ended up doing my MBA at Bangalore university, with a specialisation in finance and marketing.
Three years later, in 2014, I decided to return to Côte d’Ivoire. I wanted to use my new skills in the service of my country and the African continent.
I started in the Atlantic banking group, where I mostly worked on greenfield industrial projects, ranging from the processing of cacao to the fabrication of concrete. I stayed there for almost two years, before joining the structured finance department at the Banque Internationale pour le Commerce et l'Industrie de la Côte d'Ivoire (BICICI), a subsidiary of the French group BNP Paribas.
Structured finance is a financial instrument used for companies with complex financing needs, like big infrastructure projects. Often, these deals will even require bank syndications. It was a very technical job.
After BICICI, I joined First Capital, an investment bank, where I mostly worked on mergers and acquisitions, and infrastructure projects across sectors. Until finally, I joined BIO, the Belgian impact investor.
As an investment officer at BIO, I’m in charge of prospecting viable investment opportunities. I will then evaluate these projects to ensure they fit within the BIO framework. Thanks to our local presence in Abidjan, I will also be able to develop relationships with Ivorian and other west African investors and potential partners.
Moving from a commercial bank to an investment bank and then an impact investor has given me a cross-sectional view of finance.
FDI & DFI
For Africans, all investments are appreciated, whether they’re from Europe, America or China.
For years, the Chinese have been increasing their investments in the continent, and the people cannot afford to turn down money. The problem, however, is that very often these investments have little to no impact on the local population; local businesses do not benefit because the contracts are awarded to Chinese companies, working with Chinese labourers, often with lower quality results.
On the other hand, most African companies do not appreciate the many ESG conditions imposed on them by DFIs; they prefer to receive financing with as few constraints as possible. Better educated clients realise, however, that the SDGs make a lot of sense and shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as constraints. Slowly, more and more people realise the benefits of working with DFIs, as it also serves as a kind of “educational” funding, preparing them for working with other local and international investors and banks.
Dorian Zohou is the new Investment Officer in the Abidjan liaison office, starting from March 2022.
This is his story.
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