#IWD2021: Elsie Addo Awadzi: legal luminary bringing balance to the intense world of banking

Elsie Addo Awadzi

The financial services sector has had a long and fabled history; it has been indispensable for economic growth and development, and yet has been fraught with many challenges. Our recent history as a nation bears testament to the important, yet sometimes turbulent, nature of sector. The stakes are high and require the right balance of experience, verve, foresight, firmness and prudence among others.

Rarely are all these embodied in one person; one who executes duties without fear or favour but in the country’s principal interests. Enter Ms. Elsie Addo Awadzi, a woman who combines the best of both worlds – bringing a first-class legal mind to bear on the world of banking.

Ms. Awadzi is a legal, governance, and international finance professional with 25 years of experience working in Ghana and internationally. She is currently Second Deputy-Governor of the Bank of Ghana, following her appointment by the President of the Republic of Ghana in February 2018. She is the second woman to occupy the Office of Deputy-Governor in the Bank of Ghana’s 64-year history.

Under leadership of the Governor, Dr. Ernest Addison, her role at the Bank includes oversight of the regulation/supervision of banks and other licenced financial institutions; and the financial stability function includes macroprudential analyses and stress-testing of banks, consumer protection, market conduct, and Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism issues, among other things. She also has oversight of a number of key operational functions, including those of the Finance Department, the Banking Department, the Bank’s Regional Offices, and the Collateral Registry.

Overall, she supports the Governor in steering affairs of the Bank and is a member of the 13-member Bank of Ghana Board of Directors, and a member of the 7-member Monetary Policy Committee. She is also a member of the Financial Stability Council established by H.E. The President of the Republic in December 2018; and is one of 7 Trustees of the COVID-19 National Trust Fund established in 2020 to complement the efforts of government to support those at the forefront of combatting the COVID-19 disease, and the needy and vulnerable infected with or affected by it.

In the three years since she has been Deputy-Governor, Ms. Addo Awadzi has contributed significantly to the design and implementation of key banking sector reforms – including on-going regulatory and supervisory reforms and capacity-building efforts, and the central bank’s COVID-19 policy and regulatory response measures aimed at providing more liquidity in the financial system and providing relief to customers of banks and other financial institutions. She has also been key in promoting the Bank’s financial inclusion and sustainable banking initiatives, and was chairperson of the Ghana Deposit Protection Scheme Implementation Committee.

She represents the Bank on a number of key public sector Boards in Ghana: including the Cocoa Marketing Company Board, the Ghana EXIM Bank Board, the GIRSAL Board, and the Securities & Exchange Commission. Internationally, she chairs the Gender-Inclusive Finance Committee of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), which provides thought-leadership on matters related to gender-inclusive finance within the AFI Network of central banks and other financial regulatory institutions from more than 90 developing countries – which are all committed to making financial services more accessible to the world’s unbanked.

She was recently appointed as a member of the Graça Machel Trust’s High-Level Expert Group of African Women Leaders in the Finance Sector, to drive systemic action that advances women’s active participation in Africa’s digital economy.

Ms. Addo Awadzi combines experience from the public sector and private sector in Ghana, as well as experience working at international organisations in multi-cultural and complex geopolitical contexts. She has advised a variety of businesses, foreign and local investors, venture capital and private equity funds, and country authorities on transactions, policies, laws, and institutional reforms toward strengthening financial sector development, fiscal sustainability, and economic growth and development more generally.

Before her appointment as Deputy-Governor, she was Senior Counsel of the IMF’s Legal Department (Financial and Fiscal Law Unit) where she worked for six years advising IMF member-country authorities (mostly Finance Ministries and Central Banks) in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East, on banking sector regulatory reforms, banking sector crisis management, financial stability assessments, and public financial management reforms. She also taught and directed courses for IMF member-country officials in Washington D.C. and at IMF regional training centres in Vienna (Austria), Mauritius, and Singapore.

Before joining the IMF in 2012, Ms. Addo Awadzi was a two-term (six years in total) Commissioner of Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission; and in that role was active in formulating policies and rules to regulate Ghana’s then-nascent capital market. She was called to the Ghana Bar in April 1996 and thereafter worked with major law firms in Ghana – including one she founded and managed for 10 years before it was acquired.

She was active in designing several financial sector reforms in Ghana, during the early to late 2000s, which supported the emergence of a well-functioning medium- to long-term government of Ghana bond market, the establishment of a Central Securities Depository, a Collateral Registry, the Venture Capital Trust Fund, and the licencing of credit bureaus. She also worked briefly as a Senior Treasury Dealer at Barclays Bank Ghana, after obtaining her MBA (Finance) degree in 2000.

She holds academic qualifications in law, finance, and international economic law from Georgetown University Law Centre, Ghana School of Law, University of Ghana Business School, and University of Ghana Faculty of Law. She has to her credit several international publications on financial regulation and crisis management, public debt management, and corporate governance, among others. She has spoken widely locally, regionally and internationally on a variety of topics; including financial sector stability and resilience, and equitable, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth and development.

In 2020, Ms. Addo Awadzi received the Glitz Africa Corporate Personality of the Year Award, and the Ghana Women of Excellence Award by Top Brass Ghana, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. She was also awarded Honorary Fellowships by the Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana) and Institute of Directors (Ghana), in recognition of her contributions to Ghana’s banking sector and corporate Governance in Ghana respectively.

Ms. Elsie Addo Awadzi is an ardent believer in enabling the development and empowerment of women through active coaching and mentoring. She is a family-oriented woman who attributes her grounding and drive to her faith, her family, and her network of close friends.

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