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By Alain Ebobissé, CEO, Africa50
“The Africa Investment Forum, with its high-level, well-focused audience, ranks among the best. Its strength is that it is very transaction-oriented. The Forum not only brings together investors and stakeholders to initiate deals, but can help close transactions that would otherwise take months or years,” says Ebobissé.
Ebobissé is the Chief Executive Officer of Africa50, an infrastructure investment platform helping to facilitate project development, mobilizing public and private sector finance, and investing in infrastructure projects on the continent. Africa50’s investor base is currently composed of the African Development Bank, 28 African countries, and two African central banks.
In this interview, Ebobisse shares insights on the Africa Investment Forum and why it ranks among the best.
What are your most important memories and experiences of the inaugural Africa Investment Forum?
Our expectations for the Forum were high, and they were exceeded. We had in total 45 meetings, including three boardroom sessions with project developers, sponsors investment firms and government entities who were eager to discuss and close deals.
This allowed us to build up our project pipeline. Two projects discussed during the Forum are moving forward.
The Africa Investment Forum was also an excellent networking opportunity with high-level government officials, including heads of states. Discussing projects with such decision makers is critical as it can accelerate the approval and development process.
What are some of the key milestones from your organization (in terms of deals closure, tracking, etc.) reached at the forum?
At the 2018 Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, we reached preliminary agreements on two major projects, which we signed and publicly announced. One is the Kigali Innovation City and the other, the road-rail bridge linking Brazzaville and Kinshasa. Both create new hubs in the center of Africa – the first for innovation, the second for transportation. The two projects are valued at $850 million.
Almost 70% of the projects that were initiated at last year’s Africa Investment Forum concern infrastructure, so the Africa Investment Forum was a great venue for Africa50.
It was also the right space for widening our institution’s thought leadership and expertise on infrastructure. In addition to the plenary sessions I participated in, Africa50 Director for Project Development, Koffi Klousseh, spoke on a panel on creating bankable projects and at a side event on energy infrastructure.
How does the Africa Investment Forum compare with similar investment forums – what is the Forum’s comparative advantage?
As an organization, we attend and speak at several events focused on investment in Africa every year. The Africa Investment Forum, with its high-level, well-focused audience, ranks among the best.
Its strength is that it is very transaction oriented. The Africa Investment Forum not only brings together investors and stakeholders to initiate deals, but can help close transactions that would otherwise take months or years. In infrastructure, this makes a significant difference since the financial and opportunity costs of project delays are high.
The Forum’s work streams on project preparation, and bankability, coupled with promoting investment and improving the policy environment, are very much on target. These are also our priorities at Africa50.
The mix of participants is also well balanced and includes all the main stakeholders, from sponsors and investors, to enablers and service providers.
The Forum is led by the stakeholders in the deal-making process, sponsors, governments, and DFIs/financiers. They prepare projects and negotiate all year round. So the Africa Investment Forum is not a one-off event, but an accelerator of a long-term process. This sets it apart from other events.
Why is it important for DFIs, IFIs, MDBs, and commercial banks to collaborate in the manner that they did at the Africa Investment Forum?
Large investments in Africa, in our case infrastructure, need many sources of finance and expertise, so the collaboration between public and private financial institutions is crucial to getting deals off the ground. Each entity brings specialized expertise and different funding and risk guarantee instruments.
Once again, the Africa Investment Forum is actually a marketplace for deals, not a conference. This requires more involvement on the part of participants, which leads to better collaboration between commercial banks and DFIs to provide a broader array of financial products to fund infrastructure.
How are you organizing and mobilizing for the next Africa Investment Forum?
We will send appropriate high-level staff to participate in four ways: by promoting our thought leadership on infrastructure development during panel discussions; by promoting our newly launched Innovation Challenge, which focuses on increasing access to last-mile internet connectivity in under-served areas in Africa; we will also be engaging in project-specific transactions and negotiations, during boardroom sessions and will engage with high-level government officials, including Heads of State or Government on specific projects or to encourage them to become Africa50 shareholders.
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