Our plan to open up our capital to non-regional partners —ECOWAS Bank President Bashir Mamman Ifo

Posted by Blamé Ekoué in Lome, Togo | 7 October 2015 | 7,085 times

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The Board of Governors of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) recently renewed the tenure of the President, His Excellency Bashir Mamman Ifo, for another term of four years, with effect from October 10, 2015. The net total commitment of EBID was in the amount of approximately, $1.3 billion for the financing of 141 projects distributed between the public sector (76) and private sector (65), representing 58.5% and 41.5% respectively, as at December 31, 2014. In this interview conducted in Lome, Togo, by our Contributing Editor Blamé Ekoué, the EBID President speaks on the activities, challenges and prospects of the sub-regional bank, including options available to it to mobilise the much-needed resources.

QuestionECOWAS Bank for Development and Investment has been doing well since it started operations in 2004. The main challenge now is how best to mobilise resources to finance development projects in Member States. What are you concretely doing to meet this challenge?

Bashir Mamman Ifo: In the area of mobilisation of resources, we were able to mobilise about 40 million USD. But this basically are capital payments by Member States. As you know, the capital is being contributed by 15 Member States of the bank. We also go to the capital markets of the sub-region, and UEMOA capital market, where we mobilised about 40 billion FCFA and this basically is for the private sector. There is another fact. We wanted over 40 billion but there was an over subscription to the tune of 60 i.e. over 20 billion more than what was in the initial plan. We are also working very closely with the ECOWAS Commission to access a portion of the Community Levy and that will basically give us secured concessionary financings for our projects in the sub-region. We are still working with the Commission to see how we will have access a portion of that. It is not going to be easy but we are in the process of doing that. In addition to that, we are also discussing with different potential partners in order to open up the capital of the bank to non-regional partners. And one of the groups that we are currently discussing with it is a Chinese group based in Hong Kong.

Are institutions like yours also facing difficulties to mobilise concessionary resources to finance projects in the sub-region?

Yes. You see when you talk about concessionary resources today there is what we call “donor fatigue” because the concessionary resources are from basically from the same sources – either the World Bank that’s what we call IDA or the African Development Fund, which is at the African level, or other sources and bilateral sources in different countries. Today, the same countries that are contributing to the World Bank are the same countries that are contributing to the African Development Bank and the same for Inter-American Development Bank and the same contributing to Asian Development Bank. So there is a kind of fatigue and countries are changing strategies in terms of assistance to countries. So that is why concessionary resources are becoming exclusively difficult today.

What are you concretely doing to generate more resources from Member States?

What we are doing that is what I mentioned before: to see whether in the sub-region we could also initiate measures that are designed to generate our own resources. And that is where programmes and products like the ECOWAS Community Levy scheme come in. This is a levy that is imposed by ECOWAS Member States on certain imports and exports from their countries that are measures that are actually designed to assist the Community to develop within its own resources. And it is in order to address these challenges of concessionary funding that we are coming out with some of these ideas. The other issue is, if you talk about commercial resources, yes, we do not have much in the sense that you borrow at certain rate and you lend at certain rate just to make small margin or their own margin. But for the concessionary resources, you have to really get very, very cheap funds. These cheap funds are extremely difficult to come by today.

Some financial analysts point out that the absence of financial resources can impact negatively on the economic prospects of Member States. What is your reaction to this?

Well, you see, yes, it can impact. It can also encourage Member States or countries to come out with ideas to see how we can finance our development. Do we really need to rely on certain institutions or certain countries? Or what do we do or how do we mobilise our own resources internally? And I think that is what we are doing at ECOWAS to see that the resources are mobilised internally to finance development within the sub-region and of course with the assistance of other partners because you cannot rule out assistance from external partners. But what is important is to see how we can mobilise substantial amount. And it has been proved, for instance from certain levies that have been imposed, that indeed we can mobilise resources from our own region to finance our development programs and agenda.

But Nigeria has huge financial assets. Can’t you raise resources on its capital market?

Well, it is an option – yes, it is an option. But, you see, there also you have to look at what kind of resources you are looking for. Are you looking at resources that are concessionary? If you are looking for concessionary resources then it will be difficult but as for commercial, yes.

What does the balance sheet look like and how profitable is it for the performance of the bank, especially in terms of financing projects?

The balance sheet overall, I think we can say is satisfactory except for some challenges facing the institution, which basically had to do with the mobilisation of resources. Otherwise, in terms of performance, we can say the year was satisfactory. Let me say that in the area of appraisal of projects, the bank was able to appraise about 13 projects in 2014 for a total of about $169 million. And out of this, about 10 projects were approved by the Board of Directors for an amount of USD128 million. These are projects that were appraised, submitted and approved by the Board of Directors for implementation.

•Photo shows EBID President Bashir Mamman Ifo.

Source: News Express

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