Opening Remarks from a Special Briefing via Telephone

Português Português

U.S. Department of State
For Immediate Release
July 14, 2020

Adam Boehler
Chief Executive Officer of the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Executive Chairman of Prosper Africa
And Worku Gachou
DFC Managing Director for Africa
And Vibhuti Jain
DFC Regional Director for Africa

July 14, 2020
The Africa Regional Media Hub

Moderator:  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants from across the continent and thank all of you for taking part in this discussion.  Today we are very pleased to be joined by Adam Boehler, Chief Executive Officer of the Development Finance Corporation and Executive Chairman of Prosper Africa.  He is joined by the Development Finance Corporation’s Managing Director for Africa Worku Gachou, and the DFC’s Regional Director for Africa Vibhuti Jain.

Our speakers will discuss DFC’s recently approved investments in Africa and its various initiatives to mobilize private sector investment in support of global health resilience.  They are joining us from Washington, D.C., and Johannesburg, South Africa. 

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Adam Boehler, then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the time that we have. 

As a reminder, today’s call is on the record.  And with that, I will turn it over to CEO of DFC Adam Boehler.

Mr. Boehler:  Thanks very much, Marissa, and I want to thank everybody for joining us.  It’s a pleasure to be able to talk about our commitment to Africa.  Let me start with a few high-level talking points and then kind of a commitment that we’re making for September. 

First, I think for DFC – and let me remind you, DFC is a $60 billion bank, the development bank of the United States, that invests to advance development in emerging countries.  Our commitment to Africa is very significant.  Historically it’s been over half of our investment has gone into the African continent.  So we have a very strong and longstanding commitment to the area, and our job really is to drive capital, to invest capital, empower a private market in Africa for sustainable solutions, to advance U.S. foreign policy, and we are one of the only agencies in the country that returns capital to the American taxpayer.  So those are the three things we look at in every investment we make.

We’ve been quite aggressive over the last few months during COVID.  Our view is that DFC is needed much more than ever in investing in – during COVID.  And what we did right away, and I think similar to PPP in the United States, we’ve recognized that not every developing country can announce a liquidity program like PPP.  And so us, and we’ve done this with other DFI colleagues like IFC and others, have tried to provide a liquidity facility very quickly.  And so we immediately put out for our existing investments a $4 billion liquidity facility, and that is basically to provide liquidity for those months when countries are hardest-hit by COVID.  We know how important that has been and is in the United States, and so we wanted to work with developing countries on the same, which is the quickest thing we can do is to ensure there’s liquidity so people don’t have to lay people off or go out of business.

The second thing we’ve done is we announced a heavy Health and Prosperity Initiative, and there, that’s DFC investing $2 billion ourselves with private capital, so that’s a $5 billion total commitment with private capital.  And one of the reasons we focused on health and prosperity is because, in a similar way to how on the African continent we’ve been able to skip the step of fixed-line phones and move quickly to cell phones because there wasn’t fixed-line infrastructure, our thought on the healthcare side is if you look at the United States or other developed countries, in the ‘70s and ‘80s we invested in a lot of heavy infrastructure, a lot of heavy hospital infrastructure, and sometimes that’s weighed us down.  And if you look at novel approaches in healthcare today, I think about telemedicine, home-based medicine, digital healthcare.  These are technologies that we think will be particularly interesting in Africa because Africa is not weighed down the same way developing [sic] countries are with fixed investments in infrastructure. 

So we think there’s a possibility to skip a step and go right to what is state-of-the-art on the African continent.  And so a huge portion of our Health and Prosperity Initiative is going to be focused on Africa and what we can do there.

Finally, we’ve had a huge commitment to 2X.  We recognize – and 2X is our women’s investments initiative.  We recognize that women are disproportionately affected by the COVID crisis.  You have a lot of people that were working that are unable to work because their kids are home because of COVID, and so we’re interested in investing further in women, in technologies like coding at home and other things that can be done in a home-based way so that women can be empowered during this.  So we’ve really doubled down on our 2X initiative.  The United States has been a leader in this area.  We actually made a goal for us and our other partner investment entities in other countries – we partner a lot with the UK CDC, with the Canadians, with the Germans, with a number of others in our 2X initiative and our collaborative group exceeded our goal.  We did four and a half billion dollars in investment.  So it’s time to make a new goal.  At the time, actually, we weren’t – our goal was 3 billion.  We were not low-balling.  We thought it was a really lofty goal.  But we did better, so I think you’ll see a new goal come out from all the DFIs, but it’s – it’s not going to be 5 billion; we’re going higher and we’re really going to focus on 2X here as an extremely important area.

The other thing that we did, and not too distant, is I know a lot of you are aware of our whole-of-government approach in Prosper Africa, of which I was named chairman.  And we’ve had a very significant focus on Prosper, and one thing I’d like to announce that we are doing is we are looking at convening an investment summit as well as meetings at the White House and a women’s focus summit in Africa with African countries’ heads of state in September.  So you’re going to see our Ambassador Lana Marks is going to talk to the president of South Africa about this to organize, but COVID-dependent to some extent.  We want to make sure everybody can do it safe.  But we’ll be setting up safety there, but we’d love to invite a number of African heads of state to the United States to focus on an investment summit, and that will represent the United States commitment to the region – we think it’s critical – and our investment commitment.  So we expect a lot of deals to be done there, a lot of potential investments.  We’ll have some of the multilateral DFIs with us.  We’re also going to talk at dinner at the White House, and then the next morning we’ll be talking 2X with Ivanka Trump’s team and really how we can focus on women in the region.  So that will be coming up, COVID-dependent, we hope in September.

Let me turn it now to Worku and Vib to talk about some of the details of our commitment and focus and portfolio in Africa.

Mr. Gachou:  Thank you, Adam.  Hello, everyone.  I’m Worku Gachou.  I’m the managing director for Africa at the DFC, based in Washington.  As Adam said, the agency is quite committed to the continent and looking forward with the DFC and our new agency and our new tools to really double down.  And one of the commitments that we made to the continent is establishing our new African investment advisor program. 

We are – through this program we will have a number of staff located throughout the region – based in East Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, and the Horn of Africa – that should greatly help us increase our pipeline of transactions and activities, and then allow us and support our D.C.-based colleagues in project due diligence and monitoring of projects after commitment.  Those two efforts will be quite important in the light of certain travel restrictions because of COVID.  And so through this program we are excited that it will – we are doubling down on our commitment on the continent, but then also furthering our partnership and collaborations with our U.S. embassies and USAID missions on the continent.

That’s – that’s it from my end.

Ms. Jain:  Thank you.  Thank you, Worku.  I’m just going to briefly introduce myself and say we’re really excited to have a team on the continent.  We’re committed to being more accessible to potential clients, to growing our base of clients and really using all of our expanded authorities as DFC on the continent, and we really look forward to engaging with many stakeholders in the near future. 

This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
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