Black Excellence: A Walk Through The Success Story Of A Togolese Entrepreneur Who Co-Founded The First Pan-African Bank, Ecobank

by Duke Magazine

Koffi Djondo is conservative unlike most of his business contemporaries. He is hardly known beyond the shores of Togo but his influence in the business world goes beyond Togo. For several decades, he has been pushing for a United Africa where the means of economic production will be owned by Africans and for Africans.

On the quiet, he has built a business empire that has not only created thousands of jobs for many in Africa but also ties into the pan-African agenda. Djondo co-founded the first pan-African bank known as Ecobank in 1985 with his business partners.
Since then, the bank has grown by leaps and bounds with a presence in 35 sub-Saharan African countries and employs over 18,000 Africans. In 2013, the company made a record profit of $2.3 billion. Besides Africa, Ecobank also has offices from London to Beijing.
For Djondo, the success of his business is linked to his ethos of pan-Africanism. Africa-me quotes him as saying: “You can notice that African strength lies in unity; what we can call togetherness… It was this which gave success.”

Djondo did not rest on his oars despite the enviable success of Ecobank. He continued to push for new investment frontiers, and this time around, he landed in the aviation industry. He created Asky Airlines in 2010, and in 2011 its first commercial flights began.

Airlines’ inaugural flight had only 10 passengers. By 2014 they were flying 8000 passengers a week, with an 80% occupancy rate on their flights, according to Africa-me. The company also employs over 200 people. In recognition of the airline’s remarkable impact, Africa-me reported in 2016 that the airline received the award for the “Best African Company of the Year” at the prestigious African CEO Forum Awards.

Djondo was born in a small Togolese village on July 4, 1934. His success tells the story of someone who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The business mogul will surely laugh over such a luxurious view of his childhood.

He was raised by strict parents who eventually got divorced. As an only child, he developed a sense of self-reliance that he took into his studies. Perhaps, the most difficult period in the life of Djondo was when the Togolese government wrote to authorities in France to expel him while he was schooling there. Togolese officials reportedly did that to punish his outspoken uncle, Nicolas Djondo.

Despite the setback, Djondo returned to Paris to complete his university education after a coup in Togo saw a change in administration. After university, he worked for the airline UTA, before moving into newly established government roles.

He was first appointed as the executive director of a government body – Family Allowances Fund in 1964. He became the chairman of the Economic and Social Council in 1973, and only two years later, he was elected as the president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Togo.

He later became the President of the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce. It was through this position that he met his Nigerian business partner, Adeyemi Lawson, leading to the birth of Ecobank.

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