Olisa to steer $1bn Interswitch out of Africa

Ken Olisa is on the board of the Institute of Directors

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

A City heavyweight who battled against a massive breach of London's corporate governance standards will be named on Wednesday as the chairman of an African payments company that has its eye on an eventual UK float.

Sky News has learnt that Ken Olisa, who was ousted from the board of Kazakh miner ENRC in 2011, is to take the helm of Interswitch, a fast-growing ‎Nigerian group.

Mr Olisa, who as a director of Reuters was the first British-born black man to serve on the board of a major UK public company, is expected to help steer Interswitch's private equity backers towards a stock market listing in the next couple of years.

The company, which is headquartered in Lagos, operates in Ga‎mbia, Kenya and Uganda as well as its home market.

Valued at about $1bn, Interswitch is one of Africa's ‎most promising financial technology companies, and processed transactions worth more than $38bn last year.

It is part-owned by the Africa-focused investment firm Helios but significantly also sold a stake this year to TA Associates, a US-based private firm, underlining the continent's growing attractiveness to global investors.

Mr Olisa‎ is on the board of the Institute of Directors and founded Restoration Partners, a merchant bank focused on the technology sector.

In 2011, he was voted off the board of ENRC, a company dominated by its controlling Kazakh shareholders, and uttered the memorable line that it was "more Soviet than City".

Since then, he has also served on the board of another listed company, Outsourcery, which collapsed after running into financial difficulties, and continues to be a non-executive director of Thomson Reuters.

Mr Olisa has had extensive experience of helping to take companies public, which is expected to be of particular value if Interswitch opts to float rather than raising capital solely through the private markets.

Bankers say the group is likely to examine a dual listing in Lagos and either London or Johannesburg.

At Interswitch, Mr Olisa, who has a Nigerian father, replaces the previous chairman, Adetoun Sulaiman.

The company declined to comment.

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