Makhtar Diop: Africa’s Way to Fund Sustainable Development
Marktal Diop appointment This year, as the first African head of the International Finance Corporation, a private sector branch of the World Bank.
As the former Minister of Finance of Senegal and the former Vice President of Banking Infrastructure, Diop expects to accelerate IFC’s investment in sustainable development and support for gender equality projects.
Although it is the commercial arm of the bank, in recent years IFC has turned to support projects in low-income and fragile countries-many of which are in Africa.
Diop stated that he hopes to promote investment in small businesses and provide funding for the digital connections that start-ups need, including fintech companies that help promote financial inclusion.
In an interview with the Financial Times, he elaborated on his plans for the International Finance Corporation and his hopes to reduce the risk of private sector investment in the African continent and revitalize inclusive growth.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity and brevity.
FT: What do you think of the role of the International Finance Corporation?
MD: We are creating markets in low-income emerging economies so that we can truly access economic sectors that are underfunded and get support from the private sector. This is the first thing I want to do more.
We are the leading agency in terms of mobilization-which means that for every dollar we invest in the IFC balance sheet, we will mobilize approximately one more dollar.
I want to increase this ratio. One way I want to do is to mobilize more funds from institutional investors. These institutional investors have a lot of liquidity, some of which invest in lower-return investments, such as U.S. Treasury bills.
This is not an easy task, because last year we saw a decline in foreign direct investment. Therefore, due to the current crisis, the appetite of capital markets for emerging economies has declined. But despite this, we have been investing.
FT: How can you mobilize more funds?
MD: An example is the platform we have been creating for solar energy. We have a template in which we can reduce the complexity of project design, make the work of investors and developers easier, and the government more predictable.
This allows us to mobilize more resources, because one of the obstacles you face in emerging economies is the time required to prepare the project. So you can say, “Well, I understand how easy it is to invest in solar energy in Africa. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
FT: How has the investment environment in Africa changed?
MD: I think the world today is very different from the world 5 or 10 years ago. The current profit motive is insufficient to mobilize the private sector.
Everyone says that making money is a good thing, but making money for good and good deeds is a good thing. Therefore, private sector investment through impact investment has a social dimension.
FT: Does IFC have a strategy to guide investors in such projects, especially environmentally sustainable projects?
MD: This is not only our priority, but also everyone’s reality. it is necessary. Greening companies in the UK or greening companies in France is one thing.
Greening a company in the Central African Republic is another matter. This is why IFC is so special, because many of the other institutions we are talking about are not in these markets.
We are working on many aspects of the energy transition. We have always been one of the leaders in clean energy investment in Africa.
We did not invest in coal or oil. What we are discussing is very consistent with the Paris Agreement, which means that when we need some base load to run the grid, we are looking for the least polluting option-which in some cases may mean gas power.
Trying to create economic opportunities without addressing climate change at the same time is like trying to row a boat without oars. this is possible. But I don’t think you have gone very far.
FT: You have been investing in digital connections. Why is this so important?
MD: Without a digitally connected economy, we would not be able to recover today-which means providing services, as well as medical services such as telemedicine.
If we do not invest today, we will not be able to develop our human capital. If we say that the next Bill Gates will come from Africa, we need connectivity.
FT: Do you have any other priorities?
MD: We really need to do something about trade finance. We hope that there will be more trade in Africa. The development trend of geopolitics may become more complicated in the next few years.Therefore, the development of sub-regional value chains will be an important factor in the resilience of Africa’s economy [in areas like vaccines and pharmaceutical production, which the IFC has supported].
Our ecosystem in Africa means that small companies cannot get financing. Banks only provide short-term financing. The company has no access to the distribution network and is therefore subject to many restrictions.I am trying to work with an intermediary [including fintechs], Which allows us to reach smaller companies.