Baker McKenzie latest report – New Dynamics: Shifting Patterns in Africa’s Infrastructure Funding – shows the state of the African infrastructure market, and how the major global players’ approach infrastructure lending on the continent is changing. While the IJ Global data shows a decline in the value of infrastructure lending, it is expected that as economies recover, new types of financing will be unlocked.
The report’s data shows that multilateral and bilateral lending into Africa has declined – with investment levels falling successively in 2019 and 2020 compared to peak levels seen after the financial crisis. In 2019, bilateral and multilateral lending into Africa amounted to USD 55 billion, which drops to USD 31 billion in 2020. Over the last six years, the decline is significant – deal values dropped from USD 100 billion in 2014 to USD 31 billion in 2020.
This slowdown in infrastructure investment was attributable to a number of factors, including the pandemic. Economic contraction has affected Nigeria and South Africa, meaning that the region’s largest economies have not been feeding in growth as in previous years. However, market fundamentals signal a region with underlying resilience and, as the global economy recovers, finance will be unlocked. There are already positive indicators of forthcoming investment. Commodity prices are rising and landmark deals are returning. For example, mining multinational Sibanye-Stillwater recently committed ZAR 6.3 billion to South African infrastructure projects.
The data also shows that deal tenor is contracting – from a high of 17 years in 2019 to 13 years in 2020. However, the long-term nature of infrastructure projects means that international partners have made lasting commitments to the region, which are unlikely to be abandoned despite immediate pressure on national finances.
Surprisingly, given the pandemic, the data shows that lending by Chinese banks into energy and infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa saw a small uplift in 2020, although deal values are well below their 2017 peak. In 2017, Chinese banks lent USD 11 billion to African infrastructure projects, which decreased to USD 4.5 billion in 2018, USD 2.8 billion in 2019 and USD 3.3 billion in 2020.
Simon Leung, Partner, Baker McKenzie Hong Kong, explains, “There has been a slowdown in the number of infrastructure deals from China. In the short-term, we expect to see more targeted lending – fewer projects of a higher quality using sophisticated structures – and new finance options, such as factoring, used to deploy Chinese capital into the region.”
It is also clear that other international players have the region in their sights, with key political changes in the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) likely to see capital flow into Africa.
Michael Foundethakis, Partner and Global Head of Projects and Trade & Export Finance, Baker McKenzie Paris, notes, “The US hasn’t kept pace with Chinese lending into Africa. The recent change in administration is likely to renew focus on impact-building and financing strategic long-term projects in the region, but bankability and risk-sharing remain a priority for US lenders.”
Lodewyk Meyer, Partner, Baker McKenzie Johannesburg, notes further that, “The infrastructure funding gap is so large and of such strategic importance, it remains necessary to encourage international investment to fill it. African DFIs are very good at collaborating and I am encouraged by the actions of the new US administration, UK government and New Development Bank, in particular in their willingness to work with regional institutions in this regard. The UK is making a strong play for influence, investment and trade with Africa post-Brexit. Further to key summits held in 2020 and 2021, there are signs that finance will be redirected into Africa.”
The report points to infrastructure gaps in energy provision, internet access and transportation that have resulted in an urgent imperative to identify and enable new sources of finance outside traditional lenders and international partners. Further to the expected return of multilateral and bilateral lending, there is room for evolution to bridge the funding-opportunity gap.
The report shows, however, that this vacuum is unlikely to be filled by commercial banks, noting that in 2020, just 84 projects were supported by commercial bank finance and their involvement in Development Finance Institution (DFI) and Export Credit Agency (ECA) deals continues on a downward trend.
Luka Lightfoot, Partner, Baker McKenzie London, explains, “Banks are likely to be focusing on managing liquidity, with lenders deploying capital selectively.”
DFIs and new financing solutions
Instead, local and regional banks, specialist infrastructure funds and private equity and debt are stepping in to collaborate with DFIs and access returns. This outlines the deepening DFI involvement in the infrastructure ecosystem at large, with DFIs increasingly anchoring the infrastructure ecosystem in Africa – serving a critical function for project finance as investment facilitator and a check on capital. This is because they can shoulder political risk and access government protections in a way that others can’t, enter markets others can’t and are uniquely capable of facilitating long-term lending.
The report explains how the amount of capital needed to fill the infrastructure gap is significant and DFIs can’t bridge it alone. Private equity, debt finance and specialist infrastructure funds are primed to enter the market, and multi-finance and blended solutions are expected to grow in popularity as a way to de-risk deals and support a broader ecosystem of lenders.
Lightfoot comments, “We expect to see an increase in non-bank activity in Africa in future as a result of new credit mitigation products come to market. We have seen an increase in appetite from established market participants, such as development banks, to create products that are not tied to existing arrangements that may have limited the type of finance available.”
A new era
Lamyaa Gadelhak, Partner and Co-head of Banking, Finance and Projects at Helmy, Hamza & Partners, Baker McKenzie Cairo,adds, “The pandemic represents the end of an era and the start of a new one. There will be a re-prioritization of funds and strategy through this lens. I expect to see more investments in the healthcare industry and connected infrastructure, as well as water related projects, to be top priority. We should also consider the impact of other factors aside from the pandemic. For instance, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and what it needs to translate into increased cross-regional trends. I would expect development of transportation and logistics infrastructure focused projects to enable the acceleration of on-ground execution of intra-African trade.”
Emeka Chinwuba, Partner, Baker McKenzie New York, and Banking, Finance & Major Projects Group member, concludes, “Last year was a relatively difficult year across jurisdictions and for investors – with considerable uncertainty and change in the ways in which we do business. Shutdowns had a depressant effect on the infrastructure market, as deals in the pipeline were delayed and projects halted as a result of COVID-19. Full vaccination in Africa is still quite a long way off comparatively, so we can’t expect a full and fast return to normal activity. But we’ve reached the bottom, and the only way is up.”
Article by Baker McKenzie
ILLA, an African asset-light FMCG Logistics Company Raises $2M Investment Round
ILLA Team (Image: Supplied)
Cairo-based FMCG Logistics company ILLA secures a $2M investment round to boost its growth in the market and diversify its offering to the FMCG value chain. The round was co-led by Watheeq Financial Services and Golden Palm Investments. The round saw participation from Loftyinc Capital Management, Kepple Africa Fund, Cubit Ventures, AUC Angels, Oqal Angel Network and FLat6Labs Cairo doubling down on its investment in ILLA for the third time
Founded in 2019 by Mahmoud Elzomor, Alaa Jarkas, Ahmed Sakr, and Hossam Saraya, and shortly joined by a well versed management team with Mohamed Emera as Director of Growth, Mohamed Kamal as CFO, and Khaled Elzomor as Commercial Director ILLA aims to optimize post-production supply chain activities for FMCG brands, starting with middle-mile delivery services, being the most fragmented part of the value chain.
By focusing exclusively on the FMCG market, ILLA was able to capture the business and trust of over 65 clients in its portfolio, with household names to the likes of Coca-Cola, P&G, Danone, Nestle, Juhayna, and Pepsico.
Since 2019, ILLA has been delivering on its core promise of moving goods with efficiency on behalf of FMCG brands, spanning over 5,000,000 KM and completing over 250,000
transactions, across 27 governorates in Egypt leveraging its tech platform to power delivery
Before ILLA, FMCG brands had to rely on a variety of owned and outsourced assets to manage their delivery operations, and that adds to the pain of a fragmented logistics cycle, which gave way to the value offering of ILLA to those brands; a streamlined value chain with visibility, control and growth potential for each individual brand, with ILLA acting as an asset-light logistics company, leveraging its tech platform and operational intelligence to deliver an unparalleled experience to FMCG brands.
“ILLA will use the funds to fuel its expansion and growth in Egypt and disrupt the traditional route to-market for FMCG companies and SMEs, while building more around its tech platform to deliver more value to its clients and drivers alike”, says Mahmoud ElZomor, Co-Founder and CEO of ILLA
“Mahmoud and the team are tailor-made for ILLA, bringing decades of diversified experience to help drive efficiency into the $15 trillion global FMCG market. With the onset of covid, the global supply chain management industry is suitable for modernization, and ILLA is uniquely positioned as an end-to-end execution platform. In addition, ILLA’s smart logistics solutions also play a crucial role in providing a full stack of operational solutions that will disrupt the sector, and will change the behavior for all stakeholders within the FMCG market,” said Khaled Zaidan of Watheeq Financial Services.
“Middle-mile logistics is one of the most underinvested segments of the global supply chain market. ILLA has identified this massive opportunity in MENA and is offering a full-stack B2B supply chain management platform enabling FMCG brands to reach retailers directly at the lowest cost per case. Mahmoud and team are utilizing the trucking logistics shared economy and tech automation to innovate within a large and fast-growing market.” – AJ Okereke, Partner, Golden Palm
Fawry Invest in Sudanese Classifieds and Marketplace Platform alsoug, Marking First Overseas Venture
Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry (Image: Supplied)
Fawry establishes strategic partnership with Sudanese consumer platform with an eye to scaling up technology platform beyond Egypt.
Fawry (the “Company”, FWRY.CA on the Egyptian Exchange), Egypt’s leading provider of e- payments solutions and digital banking services, announced today that it has finalized an investment in alsoug.com, Sudan’s largest online classifieds platform and marketplace, to help build out alsoug’s new fintech platform, Cashi. Fawry has acquired a strategic minority stake in the alsoug.com/Cashi holding company, marking the Company’s first venture capital investment outside of its Egyptian home market. The investment comes as part of Sudan’s first announced venture capital funding round.
Fawry played a leading role in ensuring the success of the USD 5m round, with the Company’s presence catalyzing involvement from other strategic Western VC players. As a strategic investor in alsoug, Fawry intends to leverage its long track record with white label technology solutions to help the platform expand in scale, enhancing the platform’s merchant acquisition operation, refining its go-to-market approach, and providing valuable insights that inform high-level strategy across all segments of the business.
Founded in 2016 by a world-class team of technology entrepreneurs, alsoug is now Sudan’s leading consumer internet platform and its largest digital marketplace. Alsoug is one of Sudan’s most downloaded apps on the Google Play app store with two million downloads and is a platform where sellers can list everything from real estate and cars to services and commodities.
Despite the political and economic headwinds experienced by Sudan as it goes through a transformative political transition, the platform has grown rapidly since 2016, reflecting alsoug’s highly skilled team of in-house developers, comprehensive coverage by its on-the-ground teams, as well as Sudan’s promising economic fundamentals. Moving forward, and building on the strategic partnership with Fawry, alsoug will significantly expand its service offering by building a new payments network capable of serving customers across Sudan, one of the largest countries on the African continent.
“We’re delighted to be kicking off our partnership with alsoug, one of Sudan’s most exciting prospects and a Sudanese leader in tech innovation. This is our first investment foray outside of Egypt in our thirteen years of operation, and we’re confident that our story with alsoug and Cashi will be a special one. Fawry’s investment in alsoug delivers on our plans to venture into underserved international markets by leveraging our technology and teaming up with strong local players. This investment will provide us the opportunity to strategically expand our footprint into Africa and transfer the experience we’ve gained in the dynamic Egyptian market to neighboring Sudan, an economy with major potential across several sectors and with a significant pool of entrepreneurial talent. Meanwhile, Fawry’s strategic partnership with alsoug leaves it ideally placed to help guide the platform’s rollout of a countrywide payments system, a feat which Fawry has already managed through a scalable, robust, and best-in-class technology platform.” said: Fawry CEO Eng. Ashraf Sabry
“This investment marks a significant milestone not just for alsoug, but for the nascent tech space in Sudan as a whole, which has until today been essentially shut out of the global capital markets. I hope this investment is the first of many and that the huge potential of the tech sector in Sudan is fully realized in the coming years. We are looking forward to working with Fawry, and our new strategic shareholders, to continue our expansion from the classifieds and marketplace space into payments. We will build a payments platform that will deliver financial inclusion to all Sudanese.” said Alsoug co-founder and CEO Tarneem (Nina) Saeed
ReelFruit Secures $3 Million Series A Funding To Expand Production with New Factory
ReelFruit CEO/Founder; Affiong Williams (Image: Supplied)
ReelFruit, a premium dried fruit company known for its high quality nutritious snacks, today announced a Series A investment of $3M. Alitheia IDF led the round and invested $2M while other investors included Samata Capital and Flying Doctor Healthcare Investment Company. The New Practice advised ReelFruit on the transaction. With the capital, ReelFruit will scale its dried fruit production, develop new products, and increase exports by 10 x to 15 MT in the first year.
Key to its expansion plans, ReelFruit will acquire a new factory in Ogun State to increase its monthly dried fruit production from 6 MT to 30 MT. The factory will hire over 200 people in its first year. With its greater supply of dried fruit, ReelFruit will continue to innovate new products for the local and international markets.
As part of its efforts to secure high quality raw materials, it plans to deepen its existing work with Nigerian fruit farmers. The company will form an agro-extension services program for 250 registered mango and pineapple producers. The program will boost fruit yields and help support a steady supply of high quality raw material for the factory.
To meet strong demand for its dried fruit snacks, ReelFruit will diversify its local and international sales channels. The company will launch an e-commerce channel for direct US sales by 4Q21. ReelFruit will also unlock more B2B opportunities including white-labelling and co-packing to support the national drive toward import substitution. Local buyers will be able to buy dried fruit locally thereby reducing dependence on imports. Reelfruit is already on track to double last year’s revenues by November 2021.
“This investment takes ReelFruit to the next level. We can meet increased demand for our products and tackle one of our biggest challenges – raw material supply. We’re thrilled that this will unleash a greater impact on our value chain by increasing farmer incomes and creating up to 300 decent jobs for Nigerians,” Affiong Williams, ReelFruit CEO/Founder.
“Alitheia IDF is proud to support ReelFruit’s ongoing efforts to boost food production in Nigeria and positively impact communities through deliberate partnerships with local farmers, distributors, and retailers. The investment will strengthen the company to unlock further growth, upskill farmers and improve economic outcomes for thousands of women who play a significant role in the production of ReelFruit’s products,” said Tokunboh Ishmael, Alitheia IDF co-founder.