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South Africa: Covid-19 claims Absa deputy CEO Peter Matlare

The respected banker becomes the most high-profile business leader to die from the disease.

Peter Matlare, Absa banking group’s deputy CEO and head of its Africa regional operations, died of Covid-19 complications on Sunday, making him the highest-profile business leader to succumb to the disease.

His death was confirmed by the Matlare family on Sunday night. They said in a statement: "Peter was a consummate professional, who made an immense contribution to business in SA and across the African continent. He was passionate about transforming businesses, and believed deeply in the potential of Africa.

"Family was a cornerstone of Peter’s life. He was a pillar of strength around whom the family coalesced. He used his talent and passion for cooking to regularly gather the family for Sunday lunches, and maintain deep connections in the family.

"His support for family, friends and colleagues has left a lasting legacy. May his soul rest in peace."

The disease - Covid-19 - has killed nearly 51,000 South Africans including Jackson Mthembu, minister in the presidency, in January. Former Business Day political editor Karima Brown died last week.

Matlare was appointed a nonexecutive director in 2011 and then joined the executive as deputy CEO in August 2016, shortly before Barclays Africa Group, as Absa was then known, announced the separation from its parent, UK-based Barclays.

Matlare was part of the executive team overseeing the complex separation from its former parent, a process recently completed on time and on budget. The separation required the replacement or rebranding of millions of assets in 12 countries, including technology solutions. The group called it the "largest single data and system migration in Africa as customers in nine countries were switched to a new online banking platform".

Matlare was, in addition to overseeing the rebranding of Barclays’ presence across Africa to fall under the Absa banner, integral to forming new partnerships including one with French giant Societe Generale (SocGen). The partnership saw Absa and SocGen combine to offer shared clients a single banking platform across the continent.

Matlare was seen as a transformation pioneer. He led the SABC from 2001 to 2005, with the last year of his tenure being one of the broadcaster’s most profitable. He was chief strategy and business development officer of Vodacom before being appointed to lead diversified fast-moving consumer goods group Tiger Brands, which he led for seven years.

South Africa in Focus:

Population: 59.6 million (2019)

GDP: $369.85 billion (2019)

GDP Per Capita: $6,193 (2019)