It’s strangely fitting that Barclays Africa’s big reveal of its new, post-Barclays strategy last week was classic Absa: unconvincing and oddly familiar. There was a tangible sense of déjà vu, as if we’d seen this movie before — and it doesn’t end well. To be fair to CEO Maria Ramos, the highly rated former director-general of treasury during Nelson Mandela’s administration, the divorce from British parent Barclays hasn’t been without its fair share of tears. After all, it’s the biggest U-turn on a foreign direct investment transaction in SA corporate history: reversing the 2005 deal when Barclays bought 55% of Absa for R33bn. Barclays has now sold all but 14.9%. From May, the bank’s name will change back to Absa, from Barclays Africa. But Ramos’s plan to revive the bank was unconvincing not just because it lacked crucial detail, but also because the announcement was bizarrely prerecorded the day before, to coincide with its 2017 results. That Ramos figured it wise to deliver the mos...

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