Absa CIB’s Africa CFO Ahmed Domingo is positive about the future of the continent and admires its spirit.
Ahmed Domingo has been the CFO of Absa CIB’s African operations since 2021. He works closely with product and business heads to deliver on Absa CIB’s Pan Africa strategy and says that he loves working with people across Africa.
“Africa has always been underestimated in terms of size and opportunity due to the challenges of doing business. It is such a diverse continent with exciting opportunities, and I have been fortunate to travel to many markets across the continent. The beauty, diversity and variety of cultures make it so interesting to work in,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed mentions having lived abroad and travelled through Europe, he truly appreciates what we have in Africa.
“The continent certainly has its challenges, whether political, social or economic but equally has so much potential. What I enjoy most about my role is working with the markets outside South Africa. The people in Africa have an incredible spirit. I thoroughly enjoy engaging and interacting with them.”
Ahmed admits that he has always been positive about the future of Africa, although he has possibly been a little less positive in recent times.
“I, however, still believe that there is huge potential. The future looks promising with a young, fast-growing population. We often focus on the negatives, but if we want the continent to prosper, we need to celebrate the positives and look for opportunities to make Africa better.”
It motivates Ahmed to know that he is constantly adding value in the service that he provides, and he is constantly being challenged and growing.
“It is great being part of an industry that has a real impact on the economic growth and development of the various countries across Africa, which ultimately leads to social upliftment. It is often said that inclusive financial markets reduce rates of poverty and inequality which is rife across the continent. I do believe that we all have some responsibility towards social upliftment, whether in our local communities or the wider economy,” he says.
From a challenging childhood to a successful career
Ahmed grew up in a very different South Africa than the one that we know today.
His childhood years were spent in Athlone in Cape Town during a tense political time.
“My high school years were especially challenging since my school was very active in politics. Schooling was often disrupted by tear gas or rubber bullets,” he recalls.
Ahmed learnt the value of hard work from an early age as he spent his weekends and school holidays assisting his parents in their family business.
It was tough growing up, but Ahmed now realises that working at an early age taught him financial responsibility.
“I learnt a lot from my dad about business and finance and the sacrifices he made to provide a better life for us. You only truly appreciate the sacrifices that are made later in life.”
Science was Ahmed’s favourite subject in school, and he decided to pursue a career in engineering. But he realised in his first year that it was the wrong choice for him, and switched to business.
“Having lost one year and having a drive to be independent and not land up in the family business, I decided to follow the CA route and do a BCom degree. I was focused and worked hard throughout my degree and honours at the University of Cape Town. I completed my articles at PWC and qualified as a CA. Even though I was not in financial services, I was fortunate to work on some of the biggest clients across different industries, including financial services. Upon completing my articles, I accepted an offer to work in the Channel Islands with PWC with a focus on financial services. I enjoyed the sector and my hunger for growth, complexity and opportunities landed me at EY in London,” he says.
He was initially in audit at EY, but then moved onto advisory.
“My dream was to work for an investment bank. I enjoyed technical accounting and solving complex problems for clients. I then moved onto work for two investment banks, BNP Paribas and later UBS, in a finance and advisory capacity.”
Ahmed was away from home for a long time though and missed his family and friends. When an opportunity arose at Barclays Africa (now Absa Group), he decided to return to South Africa.
He has been at the group since 2012.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I was afforded in my career as well as the support and guidance received from my managers. And I am grateful for the opportunity to be educated, to be qualified as a professional, to gain international exposure at an early age and forge a career,” he says.
Ahmed adds that he has learnt that success is a function of having a strong team and if you allow yourself, you are constantly learning and growing from interactions with managers, peers, or people you manage. For him, it is important to invest in and develop people and to build strong relationships.
He says that he has learnt to always strive to work yourself out of a job.
“In that way you provide opportunities to others and opportunities will open for you. It is also better to be over-prepared than underprepared.”
Ahmed is passionate about coaching and recently completed a coaching qualification.
“I would like to help people to realise their full potential as well as make a difference in the community. I would like to spend more time coaching and get involved with local charities. I would also really like to use the skills and experience I have been afforded to help and support small and medium enterprises succeed.”
Balancing work and life
Ahmed is most proud of the life and family he has.
“My wife and I have two beautiful boys, ages 15 and 12. We always support each other and without their support and sacrifice I would not be where I am today. Growing up this would’ve all seemed like a dream, so I am proud of what we have achieved.”
The Domingos are a busy family. His wife is an avid runner, and both their boys are active in sport.
“It has certainly been a challenge in the past to balance the time between work, family, friends and self, due to travel and the demanding nature of my work. It is not always possible and requires a concerted effort to ensure that I am making time for family, friends and myself. It becomes more and more important as you progress through life. It is key to be present when you are with your family.”
When he has the time, Ahmed enjoys the outdoors and an active lifestyle and enjoys being on his bicycle or running through trails.