(Reuters) – The World Bank’s private sector lending arm is investing more than $2 billion in sub-Saharan Africa in the 2009/10 fiscal year as investment opportunities improve, the lender’s head said on Thursday.
“Last year, we did $1.8 billion in sub-Saharan Africa,” Lars Thunell, CEO of the International Finance Corporation, told Reuters following a presentation.
“In the June 2009/10 year, we will grow over $2 billion. We are hoping that we will also mobilise more funds, in total we will do about $2.5 billion.”
The IFC provides loans, equity and advisory services in emerging markets and also looks to draw in investment from institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds.
“We started an asset management company to crowd in even more funds into the emerging markets,” Thunell said in the presentation.
Thunell said a $2 billion transaction with the Japanese government was investing in financial restructuring of banks in four African countries, and the IFC was also looking to close a transaction with sovereign wealth funds to invest in Africa and Latin America. He declined to give details on the size of this transaction.
The World Bank forecasts growth this year of 2.5 percent for Africa and 4.1 percent for sub-Saharan Africa. Thunell highlighted Angola and Rwanda as post-conflict countries that could see 7 percent growth this year.
Political risk was becoming less of an issue for investors in Africa, Thunell told Reuters.
“If you look at the number of conflicts, it’s come down dramatically in the past 10-15 years, which is one of the reasons for the stability. We also have a new generation of leaders coming in, some of them are very very good,” he said, adding:
“But you still have natural resources, you have corruption, nationalisation. There will still be political risk, you can’t shy away from that.”
Emerging markets have led the rally out of the global economic crisis, with benchmark emerging stocks .MSCIEF gaining 74 percent last year.
But little of that increase in emerging market flows was yet coming to Africa, Thunell said in the presentation.
“There is a question of what’s happening in the world economy. The recovery is here but it’s very fragile,” he said.
“Total flows to the emerging markets are projected for this year to be half of what they were in 2007. A lot of those flows are to the big BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries, if you look at Africa and the poorer countries, it’s not really come back.” (Editing by Andy Bruce)