A call for Nordic businesses to invest in Africa

At a webinar held Thursday by the Norwegian-African Business Association (NABA), African Development Bank Vice President Solomon Quaynor made a powerful case for strategic investment opportunities in Africa.

The digital webcast, organized by NABA, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Scatec Solar and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), was part of a day-long event aimed at reconnecting Nordic businesses with the continent.

The Nordic-African Business Summit has been hosted for nine consecutive years in Norway’s capital, Oslo – with more than 3,000 guests and 300 speakers from over 40 countries taking part so far.

Quaynor, Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization, who was joined by Paal Bjornestad, the bank’s Executive Director for the Nordic countries, Ireland and India, addressed a virtual audience made up of Nordic business representatives, government and private sector and interested individuals.

The bank’s mandate to spur sustainable economic development and social progress on the African continent saw $9 billion in commercial and concessionary lending in 2019, Quaynor outlined, during his presentation on the Bank’s activities and priority areas, which was followed by a question and answer session.

This lending went towards its priority High5s, across its key cross-cutting themes – that is mainstreaming gender, support to fragile markets, and climate-friendly projects. Twenty five percent was to the private sector.

One example of this is the Boko Mine and Port in Guinea, described as a “truly transformative project.”

The $1.4 billion integrated mining and related transport infrastructure project has benefitted from a 14-year senior loan of up to $100m from the African Development Bank, with up to a 3-year grace period.

The project is expected to add $400 million to Guinea’s GDP, $300 million to the country’s trade balance annually during the operational phase.

Additionally, over 4,000 jobs will be created during its construction phase, as well as 700 permanent and 1,500 temporary jobs during the operational phase.

Agro-industrialization projects for which the bank is seeking support from Nordic country partners would include those that add value addition to the competitive production of commodities such as cocoa, livestock and cotton, and would leverage the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, adding value and “allowing African production to participate more in these value chains and also to increase jobs and increase incomes to private sector and also the African economy,” Quaynor said.

One good example of this is AFC and AP Moller Capital’s Arise Group of Companies, in partnership with Olam of Singapore.

Addressing the challenges in financing projects, bankability

The panel heard that there is a question of bankability which includes market and profitability / cashflow risk, lack of a conducive enabling environment, properly conducted Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), and challenges of integrity of sponsors and contractors.

Other questions focused on project financing available for investors, trade finance, and whether the Bank has invested in tourism projects.

The response was that the bank supports “all projects which support economic development, but we have decided to be selective and focus on areas of our comparative advantage.”

The bank is being more selective and targeting larger transformational industrialization projects.

“We also support financial institutions to indirectly support smaller projects. We will also be pivoting more from maximizing our direct loans to using guarantees to crowd in other private investors,” Quaynor said.

“In areas where the opportunities are small but very important, such as off-grid renewable energy, we support through platforms such as SEFA (the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa)… Overall we need bankable projects, credible business plans…and we need to be sure that ESG and compliance work has been done,” said Quaynor.

African Press Organization