Former Bank One head of international banking Carl Chirwa has helped establish a financial advisory focused on commodities, metals and climate risk financing.

Ashcroft & Gray aims to connect investors such as trade finance funds and sovereign wealth funds with financial institutions and traders in southeast and west African countries, where hard currency liquidity for trade and climate risk finance is scarce.

Based in Mauritius, the firm is led by Chirwa along with three other founding partners, also ex-bankers, who are yet to be announced.

Chirwa tells GTR one focus will be on financing imports of soft commodities such as fertiliser and fuels, as well as partnering with trading houses to provide liquidity to smaller miners in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia that face difficulties getting their products to the international market.

“We’ve seen a lot of the mid-scale mining producers are very cash-strapped – they have the minerals, they have the oil, they have the copper cathodes – but they don’t have the money to get the shipment to the port, and to be able to sell it,” he says.

To solve that problem, Ashcroft & Gray has partnered with warehouse operator Access World to get the miners’ products to a London Metals Exchange facility and receive a warehouse receipt, against which they can raise pre-shipment financing.

Ashcroft & Gray will centre its activity on Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. Chirwa says given access to dollars continues to be a problem for many countries, the company is also helping structure facilities with extended credit terms.

Chirwa had been with the Mauritian lender Bank One since September 2018 and prior to that held trade and structured finance roles in Kenya for Citi, Standard Chartered, and the Trade and Development Bank. Bank One has named Thavin Audit acting head of international banking in the wake of Chirwa’s departure.