Finance: Alain Ebobissé of Africa50 targets institutional investors for African infrastructure

By Aurélie Benoit
Posted on Monday, 25 July 2022 09:04

Alain Ebobissé of the Africa50 Fund
Alain Ebobissé of the Africa50 Fund (rights reserved)

In Marrakech, at its general assembly of shareholders, the Africa50 fund – an African Development Bank subsidiary in charge of infrastructure – took a step towards the continent's sovereign wealth funds.

Alain Ebobissé, the CEO of Africa50, and Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB President, signed a framework agreement on 19 July with Obaid Amrane, the head of Ithmar Capital, which oversees the new Africa Sovereign Investors Forum.

The trio intends to strengthen Africa50’s collaboration “with a large number of African sovereign wealth funds to help bridge the infrastructure gap on the continent”, according to the platform’s director.

Less than a month after a first letter of intent was initialled in Rabat, Ebobissé laid out his strategy. He wants to “go faster and on a larger scale”. “Faster” because this is a time of risks linked to the war in Ukraine and the consequences of Covid, and “on a larger scale” because the needs are immense. Every year, Africa has a deficit of between $68bn and $108bn to finance its infrastructure… The figures illustrate the major obstacle the continent faces in taking off.

“No nation in the world can develop, create jobs, protect its natural resources and provide opportunities for its people without the appropriate infrastructure,” says Cameroon’s Ebobissé, who has spent a large part of his career at the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, and has decided to turn his sights on institutional investors.

$2trn in assets

“This category of players, sovereign wealth funds in particular, have an estimated $2trn in assets under management. They are a key factor in stimulating investment in infrastructure,” said the managing director, who hopes to benefit, even if only in tiny proportions, from this financial windfall.

This rapprochement with the Africa Sovereign Investors Forum follows a previous initiative aimed at institutional investors: the Africa50 Infrastructure Acceleration Fund. Formalised in October 2021, the fund should attract up to half a billion dollars in endowments. Its management has been entrusted to Vincent Le Guennou, an expert on investment in Africa and former director of Emerging Capital Partners. However, no date has yet been set for the first closing, despite Ebobissé’s wish for speed.

An investment platform created by African heads of state and the African Development Bank, Africa50 has supported some fifteen projects in recent years, including the Nachtigal dam in Cameroon, the Benban solar park in Egypt, and more recently, in Mauritania, the toll motorway project linking Nouakchott to Boutilimit.

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