Dear Shareholders

2023 was a year full of challenges. The impact of Covid dislocations was still being felt in many corners of the globe and to this has been added the strains of inflation and interest rates/ cost of living crisis and regional conflicts. Largely however our business, while not immune from these difficulties, has managed to navigate the worst impacts and produced the highest profits after tax in its 15 year history as Bank One.

I would like to thank my fellow directors and the management team for their hard work and the results for 2023.

Global update

Key global themes evident in 2023 and likely to spill over into 2024 are; global inflation and interest rates, China, regional conflicts and tensions, demographics and technological advance.

Global inflation and interest rates

Global inflation is set to fall from 8.7% in 2022 to circa 7.0% in 2023. This is off the back of lower commodity prices and tighter global monetary policy as central banks around the world raised reference rates to the highest level seen in decades.

The Federal Reserve raised rates eleven times between March 2022 and July 2023 from 0.25/50 bp to 5.25/50 bp. The current rate is a 22 year high.

Forecasts are for global inflation to decline further to 5.8% in 2024. Inflation in the advanced economies is, however, not expected to return to sub 2% levels until 2025.

With the moderation of inflation, the consensus across global financial markets is an expectation that the Federal Reserve reduce reference rates between 3 to 6 times in 2024. Rate reductions expectations buoyed global equity markets in Q4/23. The market, however, may be getting ahead of itself and expectations are shifting from a Q1 to Q3 first rate reduction.


China’s USD18 trillion economy accounts for some 18% of global GDP and 30% of the world’s GDP growth. More recently as a result of a slow exit from Covid and significant challenges in its domestic real estate sector, growth is expected to slow to sub 5%, materially lower than pre Covid rates of growth.

This is a key reason for a decline in global GDP from 3.5% in 2022 to an estimated 2.9% in 2024. By comparison, historically for the first 20 years of the century average global growth was 3.8%.

Conflicts and tensions

Global conflicts remain an unfortunate negative driver of global health. The Russian/ Ukraine war continues with little evidence of a quick resolution. The war has had a major impact on global commodity prices, particularly wheat and fertiliser.

The Israel/ Hamas conflict in Gaza has been a tragedy for both slides and threatens a possible regional conflagration involving Iran. If the conflict spreads, there are likely to be significant ramifications for the price of oil. There are initial worrying signs of an expansion of the conflict with Houthis rebels in Yemen firing missiles at vessels transiting the Red Sea. Circa 15% of global trade moves through the Red Sea.

The current tension between America and China over Taiwan has had a direct impact on trade relations between the world’s two largest economies. In addition to this, it has led to large scale strategy changes for manufacturing companies operating in China (re-shoring and China + 1).

All these conflicts present challenges and cause uncertainty for the world economy.


Several features of global demography are quite clear. One is that fertility rates have been falling just about everywhere. In many countries, notably China (whose population dropped by 2 million people in 2023), fertility rates are far below replacement levels. Meanwhile, the highest fertility rates are in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, its share in global population may rise by 10 percentage points by 2060. These demographic changes, which are expected to stay, are the result of rising longevity, the transformation in the economic, social and political roles of women, urbanisation, the high cost of parenthood, and changes in how people judge what is worthwhile in their lives.

Technological advance

Progress in renewable energy, especially the declining cost of solar energy is one example. Advances in life sciences are another. However, in our age, the revolution in information and communication technologies is the centre of such progress. The growth in the number of transistors on a circuit board has risen from thousands in the 1970s to billions in the 2020s. This has hugely enhanced data processing. In addition to this, 60% of the world’s population used the internet in 2020, compared to 66.2% in January 2024. Further transformation of how we live and work will undoubtedly follow. The development and use of artificial intelligence is the latest example.


Mauritius fared well in 2023 with the World Bank expecting GDP growth of 5% in the year. GDP growth in 2024 is forecast to be 4.6% and 3.6% in 2025. Inflation averaged 7.3% in the last 12 months although it is expected to moderate over the medium term (6.2% in 2024 and 4.8% in 2025) aided by lower inflation in key trading partners.

While consumption spending was weak during the year it was offset by a strong rebound in the tourist sector. Based on numbers compiled by Statistics Mauritius, tourist arrivals were up circa 30% over the first three quarters of the year. The revival of international tourism has contributed to a narrowing of the current account deficit.

National debt to GDP peaked in the 2020/21 financial year, at 94.6% but is expected to fall back to 78.7% in the 2023/24 financial year.

The Bank of Mauritius kept the key repo rate at 4.5% after increasing it by 265 basis points in 2022. This has slowed the depreciation of the rupee.

The overall Mauritius financial position is solid and this is likely to reflect favourably when the ratings agencies review the country’s sovereign rating. That said, the economic outlook is subject to downside risk from the tightening of global financial conditions, slower global GDP growth and geopolitical risks such as conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Progress at Bank One

While 2023 was another difficult year from a macroeconomic perspective, it was pleasing to see the business generate a positive set of financials attesting the strong execution of its Sub-Saharan Africa focused strategy. Working closely with its shareholder groups in Africa, I&M and CIEL, the business has broken new ground and is supporting its financial services and corporate customers in 14 different East and West African countries. PAT for the year was up 53%. Loans and advances increased by 10% and deposits by 17%.

The capital and liquidity position of the Bank remains strong and above regulatory requirements. In 2023, the Bank retained its BB- Stable rating from Fitch. This is a top 20 rating for a bank in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Non-performing loans have been well controlled but are up on 2022 largely as a result of a single exposure. The exposure in question is insured by a top rated international insurance company and so the Bank is confident of a recovery in due course.

The Bank’s digital strategy remains key to its future and progress is being made on a broad front around digital payments, new internet banking services for corporates and workflow processes to drive greater internal efficiencies.

During 2023, the Bank was awarded the following awards;

  • Best International Banking Services (Indian Ocean) 2023: Awards
  • Best Custodian Bank 2023: Awards
  • Best Mass Affluent Banking Offering (Highly Acclaimed Category): Global Retail Banking Innovation Awards
  • Best SME Bank (Mauritius) 2023: Global Finance SME Bank Awards
  • Best Private Banking in Mauritius: Global Finance World’s Best Private Banks Awards
  • Most Influential Retail Banker of the Year (SADC Region): 12th African Bank 4.0 Summit (SADC Region)
  • Mauritius Best Employer Brand: Mauritius Best Employer Brand Awards

Activity in the community

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) remains an important part of who we are in Bank One. The Bank is focused on its Community Action Relief and Empowerment (CARE) programme. The CARE framework aims to strengthen and maintain long-term relationships with its communities, while providing opportunities to the Bank’s team members to participate in CSR activities focused on financial inclusion, education and sustainable development.

During the year, 7 CSR initiatives took place and these included 2 joint activities with the CIEL foundation through the social platform and the Ferney Valley Conservation Trust. The collaboration with Actogether is focused on NGO capacity building.

On the education front, Bank one has partnered with the Ecole Pere Henri Souchon that supports 100+ underprivileged children in the Pointe Aux Sables area and the Jean Blaise Learning Centre that provides an evening school for approximately 50 children experiencing academic difficulties.

Changes at the Board

There were three changes on the Board in 2023.

Chris Low stepped down from the Board on 31st August 2023 and was replaced by Kihara Maina as of 01st September 2023. I would like to extend my thanks to Chris for all his hard work and support for the business and welcome Kihara. Kihara was appointed Regional CEO for the I&M Group in February last year with responsibility for its businesses in Mauritius, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

I am delighted to welcome Cyril Wong who joined the Board as an independent director in August. Prior to joining Bank One, Cyril was a non-executive director and the chairman of the Audit Committee for ABSA Bank (Mauritius).

Concluding remarks

2023 was a difficult year and 2024 promises to offer up its own challenges. That said, our business continues to perform strongly and I am optimistic about the Bank’s future and the opportunities presented by its Sub Saharan African strategy.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our shareholders, my fellow directors, the Bank One team, our external auditors and our regulators for their excellent support in 2023.