Infrastructure Financiers From Near And Far Rally Around Africa

Africa's Infrastructure Fund
Africa has a huge infrastructure deficit

AFRICANGLOBE – African governments are turning to new local sources to complement more funds promised by the Chinese government.

Ending Africa’s infrastructure deficit requires spending of about $75bn a year, according to the World Bank. But where to find the cash?

Several countries have hit the capital markets, but that window may not be open for long. “We are looking to use our pension funds to plug the gap”, says Tas Anvaripour, division manager for infrastructure finance at the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Anvaripour has spent the past 24 months convincing Nigeria’s pension funds to create a domestic infrastructure fund rather than place money in low-yield treasury bills.

The AfDB is launching the Africa50 Infrastructure Fund to bring together capital lying dormant in African pension funds and national reserves, and use it to attract global capital in a co-investment that will look to cut the delivery time for African infrastructure from seven to three years.

Given that intra-African investment accounted for 32.5% of new foreign investment from 2003-2011, according to Ernst & Young, whereas intra-European investment is 80%, there is some way to go.

European and Asian investors are also looking at ways to place long-term money on the continent.

Some are looking to mitigate the risk by investing in safe intermediaries.

An Italian pension fund, for example, is investing in PTA Bank, active in regional infrastructure and trade finance.

Others, like Meridiam, a European investor and infrastructure operator that both raises capital and manages projects, are contemplating an entrance into African markets.

The Chinese government is more comfortable with the risk.

Though there is always a large slice of ‘announcement effect,’ officials from China Export-Import Bank promised in late 2013 that Chinese banks and companies will provide $1trn of investment by 2025.

This will include soft and hard loans, much of it directed at infrastructure.

One of the last major infrastructure deals of 2013 was a $319m loan from China Exim Bank to the Zimbabwean government for the expansion of the Kariba Dam.