Is West Africa the focus region for ECA-supported financing?

(Business Alive, Johanessburg, 14 June 2021) Export credit agency (ECA) finance is an important lever for infrastructural development in West Africa. According to deal intelligence platform TXF Data, Africa was the second-most active region globally in 2020 for ECA-supported financing, with more than $35.5bn worth of ECA-supported debt. This included some of the largest single financed projects in Africa, such as the Mozambique LNG transaction ($14.9bn); the Nigeria LNG train 7 ($3bn); and the Credendo/The Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC) covered $359m real estate project in Abidjan, to name a few. The Covid-19 pandemic aggravated the infrastructure deficit faced by the continent. West African governments responded quickly, finding new strategies to raise the deficit themselves — particularly with social infrastructure. Unlike East and Southern Africa, West Africa raised finance on the sovereign’s balance sheet, via the ministry of finance (MoF). ECA direct financing is an integral part of financing in West Africa. This model of financing provided by most European ECAs is generally a “countercyclical” financing mechanism that seeks to address market failure. In the first quarter of 2020, there was a global shortage of liquidity, and this significantly raised the cost of financing. This caused ECAs to step up and provide direct loans to MoFs at low Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) commercial interest rates of reference (CIRR). Governments are aware of these financing arrangements and made use of the product offered by ECAs in 2020 (for example the latest March 2021 OECD CIRR for 8.5+ year loan in US dollars is 1.91%).