In a recent interview with CNBC Africa, Sunil Kaushal, CEO of Standard Chartered Africa and Middle East, expressed his optimism regarding the economic outlook for regions across Africa. While acknowledging the challenges faced by the continent, Kaushal highlighted ongoing reforms in Nigeria and identified Tanzania and Kenya as great places for multinational companies to establish their base. Additionally, he emphasized Mozambique as a bright spot for investment.

Discussing the bank’s strategy, Kaushal reiterated their focus on reducing stress in the region through the provision of alternative sources of capital and risk mitigation efforts. He stressed the importance of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in driving efficiency within the bank’s operations, particularly in areas such as trade documentation, fraud risk management, and customer onboarding. However, Kaushal also acknowledged the risks associated with AI, including biases that can arise from data and algorithms. He emphasized the need for responsible AI frameworks to ensure that these risks are well managed.

When asked about the fragmentation and tensions between different regions of the world, Kaushal viewed it as a different way of doing business rather than fragmentation. He explained that events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the tension between the US and China have prompted a reconfiguration of supply chains, with countries seeking alternate sources and sites for production. Kaushal mentioned Vietnam, Indonesia, and India as emerging manufacturing hubs. He noted that while these changes have resulted in higher costs, trade continues to grow and the essentials are getting closer to home.

Regarding Standard Chartered’s mission at the World Economic Forum, Kaushal highlighted the opportunities to network and share best practices with other industry leaders. He expressed enthusiasm for becoming a thought leader in areas such as climate change, AI, and trade finance.

Shifting the focus to Africa and the Middle East, Kaushal emphasized the positive secular trend driven by demographics, infrastructure needs, and the demand for capital. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, and higher interest rates have disrupted the region and increased debt sustainability concerns. However, Kaushal expressed confidence in the continent’s ability to bounce back and maintain its position as a driver of economic growth, a consumer of global savings, and a leader in the green transition.

Sunil Kaushal’s optimistic outlook for Africa’s economic future reflects the potential and opportunities that the continent holds. While acknowledging the challenges and disruptions, he remains confident in the resilience and growth prospects of the region. Standard Chartered’s focus on reducing stress through alternative sources of capital and risk mitigation efforts demonstrates its commitment to supporting Africa’s economic development.