The African Guarantee Fund (AGF) was officially launched in 2012, as an initiative of the African Development Bank alongside the governments of Spain and Denmark to help financial institutions lend more to SMEs by providing guarantees against risk of defaults. In the last two years the AGF has added the Nordic Development Fund and France’s AFD as shareholders.
It has been a remarkable year for the Fund. Late last year it received an AA- rating from Fitch, something Felix Bikpo, the Fund’s CEO said would help attract new partners and help it better leverage its balance sheet as well as reduce the cost of capital for SMEs as it would be able to provide its services at a lower cost.
Earlier this month in London, the AGF signed a $74m re-guarantee agreement with GuarantCo that will enable it to further leverage its balance sheet to lend to SMEs servicing the infrastructure sector. Too often the constraints for SMEs is the lack of infrastructure such as power, connectivity or strong logistical nodes, and financing SMEs that are contributing to bridging this gap will have a twin effect of both supporting SMEs in the sector and other SMEs that will benefit from improved infrastructure.
Over the past 6 years, AGF has led the guarantee market in Africa by issuing financial guarantees enabling lending to the tune of USD $700 million to approximately 8,000 SMEs. As it continues to strengthen its capital base it intends to continue using its balance sheet to enable another $1bn of loans to this asset class, which Bikpo feels is the only one that can truly enable a truly diversified economy.
The African Guarantee Fund has this year taken the platinum sponsorship at the African Banker Awards, the continent’s pre-eminent event recognising African’s best performing financial institutions. This year’s awards will take place in Busan, Korea during the AfDB’s annual meetings in May. The deadline for entering the awards has been extended until the 31st March across a range of categories including financial inclusion.
An interview with the CEO of the AGF, Felix Bikpo, will appear in the April issue of African Business.