(AfDB) - During a visit to the African Development Bank, Swedfund CEO Maria Hakaanson has expressed keen interest in strengthening the cooperation and exploring opportunities for the Swedish state development finance institution’s strategic portfolio.
Hakaanson visited the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on 14 September at the head of a delegation that comprised Kitanha Toure, Regional Director for West Africa, Fredrik Linton, Chief Business Development & Special Operations Office and Ann-Caroline Andersson, Chief Administrative and HR officer.
The Swedfund delegation met with African Development Bank Senior Vice President Swazi Tshabalala; African Development Bank Director for Portfolio Delivery and Impact Yvette Glele, newly appointed Director in the Office of the Senior Vice President and Management Operations Department Catherine Baumont-Keita, Division Manager for Resource Mobilization Herve Pekam, Division Manager for Legal Services Neneh Mbye and others. Ousmane Fall, the Bank’s Director for Non-Sovereign Operations and Private Sector Support joined the meeting via video feed.
The African Development Bank’s Executive Director for the Nordic countries, Ireland, and India, Mette Knudsen, and two advisors also attended.
Welcoming the delegation, Tshabalala said Sweden was an important partner that had come through for the Bank’s regional member countries in “crunch times”.
Hakaanson said she hoped the visit would strengthen Swedfund’s partnership with the African Development Bank. Swedfund has recently opened an office in Abidjan as it seeks to expand its presence in the West Africa region. Typically, its investments have been in Ghana and Nigeria, Hakaanson said. The agency maintains offices in Stockholm and Nairobi as well.
She explained the fund’s priorities, which concentrate 65% of its debt and equity investments in Sub-Saharan Africa, spanning sectors such as energy, including emission reduction and renewable energy, as well as financial inclusion and food systems. Through its project accelerator, Swedfund also fosters sustainable enterprises.
Citing the Bus Rapid Transit initiative in Abidjan as an example, Hakaanson said Swedfund funded feasibility studies, typically for public sector projects. Swedfund contributed to the municipal government’s efforts to create a master plan for the bus system.
Tshabalala noted potential synergies in the energy sector. The Bank is working to assure universal electricity access for Africans, she said, and would welcome the provision of technical assistance to national electricity utilities to increase their capacity.
The Senior Vice President mentioned Bank initiatives, including Affirmative Finance Action for Women, or AFAWA, that are expanding access to capital for women owned businesses as a sphere where the Bank is seeking more “granularity” in terms of its impact. Tshabalala said AFAWA had approved over $1 billion in investments.
Exploring avenues for bilateral and multilateral coordination between the African Development Bank and Swedfund, Linton said one option was the Africa Resilience Investment Accelerator or ARIA, to which the African Development Bank and Swedfund both belong as partners, with IFC of the World Bank Group, Japan International Cooperation Agency, the EBRD, EIB, FMO and other development finance institutions. Through ARIA, Swedfund invests in businesses in fragile and transitional states, Linton said.
Mbye said the African Development Bank hosts several trust funds that support project preparation facilities, and which would welcome investment from Swedfund.
FIRM’s Pekam said that Sweden had previously contributed to the Bank’s Youth Entrepreneurship Trust Fund. He added that the Bank is working with African countries to set up Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks (YEIBs), national anchor institutions that will coordinate the sustainable delivery of financial and non-financial services to youth entrepreneurs.
In Togo, the Bank is supporting the establishment of a YEIB, which has attracted support from Germany’s KfW. Pekam said Swedfund might also wish to invest in the Togo YEIB.