Co-operative Bank of Kenya’s Esther Kariuki has been named the African Banker of the Year for her role in advancing agriculture as a key sector for the listed lender.
Ms Kariuki, who is the head of agriculture business at the Co-op Bank, is the second woman to win the coveted prize which has mostly been won by chief executives of banks.
She was named the African Banker of the Year 2023 at the 58th Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank that was held in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. The awards committee, in a statement, said Ms Kariuki is a leader and role model.
“She was also responsible for considerably increasing lending to the agricultural sector and oversaw the roll-out of the platform Co-op Bank Soko, a digital marketplace that connects the agriculture value chain and ensures, among other things, that small-holder farmers receive a higher price for their produce,” the awards committee said in a statement.
Vera Songwe, former UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, is the other woman that won the award in 2021.
Co-op Bank’s Soko platform had enlisted 400,000 farmers by the end of last year, the lender says in its latest annual report.
The Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed lender has strong connections in the agricultural sector which has many savings and credit co-operative societies catering to farmers producing tea, coffee and milk among other commodities.
The bank says the platform is aimed at leveraging technology to promote the financial and economic inclusion of small-scale farmers.
The lender offers loans to farmers registered through the platform to redeem farm inputs from suppliers.