That the United Bank of AfricaNigeria’s largest bank, named Tony Elumelu its board chairman this week wasn’t a surprise. 

Mr. Elumelu is credited with turning the bank around during a decade as CEO before having to step down in 2010 after the central bank passed financial reforms limiting terms of chief executives to 10 years. 

It’s whom he replaced as chairman that might draw some attention here in Atlanta. 

Ambassador Joe Keshi, who served as the bank’s chairman from last November until last week, was posted as Nigeria’s consul general in Atlanta from 2000-04. Mr. Keshi also served in the Nigerian diplomatic service both at home and in The HagueNetherlands. The reason for his departure from UBA was not disclosed in a news release. 

During his time here, Mr. Keshi was an outspoken advocate of flights between Atlanta and Lagos, which for a long time were operated by a subsidiary of Peachtree City-based World Airways. Delta Air Lines Inc. now has nonstop flights between the cities. In a February 2000 Global Altanta interview shortly after his arrival, Mr. Keshi also lobbied for American investment in Nigeria’s energy infrastructure.  

Mr. Elumelu’s return to the bank as chairman comes at what he believes is a pivotal time for the U.S.-Africa relationship. Some $37 billion in deals were announced during the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit, which brought 50 African heads of state to Washington this month. Mr. Elumelu, also CEO of Heirs Holdings and founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundationcommitted $100 million to a program connecting African and African American entrepreneurs. 

Lagos, Nigeria, where UBA has the headquarters for its 20-country operations across Africa, is a sister city of Atlanta. Mayor Kasim Reed is planning a business mission to Nigeria later this year. 

Read our February 2000 story on Mr. Keshi’s appointment as consul general to Atlanta here

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...