IFC Invests $13m to Support Ecotourism, Conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has announced a $13 million investment in the Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund (ACCT Fund) to support the post-pandemic recovery and sustainable growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s ecotourism sector.
The investment will support ecotourism businesses in and around conservation areas in East and Southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The ACCT Fund will invest in operators of safari camps, hotels, and lodges, helping them address liquidity shortages while recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund will also help them refurbish, renovate, and expand their operations, especially where the businesses can achieve meaningful conservation and community development impact.
Impact investment and advisory group, ThirdWay Partners, and The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit organization, established the ACCT Fund, a structured debt vehicle, in 2021 in response to COVID-19-related challenges affecting the ecotourism sector.
Based on IFC estimates, the ACCT Fund is expected to contribute at least $530 million to economies where it invests through direct, indirect, and induced effects in the agriculture, retail, transportation, and recreational sectors. IFC expects the investment to also save about 21,200 full-time jobs.
“We are very grateful for IFC’s support of this innovative and very important initiative,” said Mr Maarten Weehuizen, Managing Director of the ACCT Fund. “The ACCT Fund is an impact investment vehicle which balances financial goals with a clear conservation and community impact agenda.”
“Tourism is critical to the long-term survival of conservation landscapes across the African continent, to the benefit of the people and the wildlife who depend on them,” Mr Weehuizen added. “Even prior to the COVID pandemic, these areas were under significant pressure; tourism provides jobs in rural areas, funding for nature protection and its activities with guests in these landscapes significantly reduce the risk of poaching, deforestation, and land conversion.”
Ecotourism businesses are committed to protecting the environment and wildlife where they operate.
“As part of this innovative blended finance approach, IFC has partnered with the Nature Conservancy, a global environmental conservation organisation, to support sustainable ecotourism and deliver impact to small tourism operators,” said Mr Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa. “IFC’s investment in the ACCT Fund will help financially affected ecotourism businesses to preserve jobs and contribute to the local economy. The partnership aligns with IFC’s strategy to support the revival of domestic and regional tourism markets and to use a blend of financing tools to support countries’ development priorities.”
With the financing from IFC and other investors, the fund has now reached a final close with a total of $70 million raised. The ACCT Fund is structured using a blended finance approach with three tranches of capital: grant funding, junior equity, and senior equity funding.
In addition to financing, IFC will also provide non-commercial risk mitigation and capacity building by supporting the development of climate guidelines that will contribute to setting standards for the sector and help operators improve their environmental performance by reducing energy and water use and improving waste management.