Absa’s Expanding Role in Africa’s Post-Pandemic Recovery Race
The race to rebuild the global economy after the lockdowns is gathering pace. The spike in inflationary trends, disturbing food insecurity levels, failing channel management systems, the sharp increase in the number of businesses going bust, and alarming infrastructure deficit form the recent consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hence, development agencies and state economic managers on global and regional scales have sprung into action to revive the hailing economies. Recovery aids, financing instruments are being sourced to balance up the intervention policies developed across markets to stimulate quick recovery from the various shocks of the viral outbreak.
Africa, home to over 1.2 billion people, is striving hard to meet its obligations of catering to the food needs of the burgeoning population as well as closing the massive infrastructure deficit evidenced by the inconsistent supplies of electricity, decaying road transport systems, low internet penetration level, growing unemployment rate and faulty municipalities across its 30.3 million km2 surface areas.
According to the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA), the lockdown rules that were implemented across the African continent led to drastic short-term income losses for informal workers as very few of the workers had access to social security protection. Foreign direct investment (FDI) also dropped drastically as trade declined dramatically on the continent while the government capacity to keep the economy active ebbed leaving little or no means of support for the state managers.
A swift rebound from the deep deficits on the continent would require strong public-private partnerships on a socioeconomic level. The private sector which provides as much as 90% of the employment in the economies and plays active roles in implementing key growth policies are a strong driver of national and regional economic agenda. It is hard to imagine a faster post lockdown recovery on a large scale without effectively engaging the private sectors.
Absa, a pan Africa financial institution is spearheading the private sector’s interventions to stimulate swifter recovery in trade, investment and infrastructure development. The bank is deploying its wider operating capability, well-tailored offerings and experience on a global scale to support the various post lockdown recovery efforts embarked upon by some state actors.
One of the recent moves made by Absa to shore up efforts to rebuild the African economy is a collaborative agreement with Proparco, a French development finance institute, to help corporate SMEs recover from the lockdown’s shocks.
The collaborative economic support agreement aims to source and disburse $20 million to SMEs operating in sectors such as construction, manufacturing, tourism, retail, which have been badly hit by the Covid-19 crisis especially in South Africa.
By helping the SMEs segment stay afloat through the provision of accessible loan instruments, Absa is addressing a critical issue on the continent.
Of course, the African SMEs segment played a significant role in the continent’s impressive 5% average growth in the past decade. The segment has been a fitting lever pulled to attract investment to the continent over the years. It also topped other segments in generating employment for the population and tax revenue for various governments.
Therefore, by providing a support framework for the segment through collaborative efforts, Absa is leveraging its impressive developmental network to strengthen a key locus of economic recovery in the post-lockdown operating environment.
Speaking about the collaborative agreement between Proparco and Absa, Parin Gokaldas, Group Treasurer at Absa, said, “The agreement further enables Absa to provide financial support to corporate SMEs, a vital component of the local economy, as it recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are particularly pleased with the agreement as we view the relationship with Proparco, a significant development finance institution in Africa, as strategically important.”
For Emmanuel Haye, deputy head of the Financial Institutions Debt Group, covering Africa and the Middle East, at Proparco: “…We are delighted to start this partnership with Absa Bank, a key player with a strong pan-African presence and to be part of a much-needed counter-cyclical role.”
In the same vein, Absa was recently involved in raising a $400 million syndicated loan for the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), a leading infrastructure solutions provider, which targets critical infrastructure development on the continent. The pan African bank, through its Corporate and Investment Banking division, along with a few other global banks, acted as a bookrunner and mandated lead arranger to help the AFC secure the development loan.
The involvement in the syndicate loan arrangement to boost infrastructure development in Africa is another significant intervention effort that speaks to the development focus of the bank.
Banji Fehintola, Senior Director & Treasurer at the AFC, explained, “This loan will be instrumental in working towards plugging the infrastructure gap we are facing on this continent, especially following the damaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We remain committed to partnering with experienced, like-minded organizations to provide sustainable finance for infrastructure development in Africa while achieving the lowest borrowing costs of any institution on the continent.”
Precisely, robust investment in infrastructure development enables trade and creates a vibrant environment that powers businesses. It provides millions of jobs each year in building and maintenance for the local population.
According to a statement released by the AFC recently, the syndicated loan will support Africa’s post-pandemic recovery “through critical development of infrastructure”. Africa no doubt is in need of strong infrastructure development support in raising the standards of road and freight networks, broadband penetration levels, and the upgrading of the continent’s electric power facilities.
Sadiq Abu, Chief Executive Officer, AbsaNigeria said, “As a pan-African financial institution committed to deepen growth and create shared value, Absa is consistently deploying its vast knowledge of the operating environment to support both public and private development actors in stimulating faster post-lockdown economic recovery on the continent.”