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Infrastructure is key to transforming commodities —Akin-Olugbade

Dr Adesegun Akin-Olugbade is one African who has served at the highest levels in three of the foremost pan-African financial institutions. A former General Counsel of the AfDB, Dr. Akin-Olugbade was also the pioneer General Counsel of Cairo-based Afreximbank. He is currently Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC). He has, therefore, traversed Africa’s legal, economic and infrastructure landscape as reflected in this interview:  
The following were excerpted from an interview he granted at the Lusaka 2016 meetings.

Adesegun Akin-OlugbadeThe AFC was set up in 2007 with the aim of bridging infrastructure financing gap in the entire continent of Africa. How far have you gone with that task?
We have done reasonably well in infrastructure financing in Africa. We started with two member-countries and today, we have about 14 member countries. The AFC started with an authorised capital of $2 billion, with $1.1 billion as paid up capital. Today, we boast $3.2 billion as paid-up capital in our balance sheet. Currently, we have operations in 26 African countries. We have projects in East, West and Southern Africa, so we have been very productive. We are now the second highest-rated financial institution in Africa.
One of the challenges of African trade is the export of raw materials without value addition.

The AFC provides finance for infrastructure. Are you doing anything to change that in terms of providing the right infrastructure?
I think infrastructure should form the bases for adding value to commodities and then using that as a platform for exporting finished products rather than raw materials. Unless you have the basic infrastructure such as power, roads, and ports, you cannot really transform commodities along the value chain into finished products. That is where we come in. However, we don’t do export trade as much and our trade financing is a very small aspect of our business. We focus more on infrastructure.

What effort is the AFC making to encourage trade among African countries?
We are in partnership with institutions such as the African Export and Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) where the primary focus is trade financing. We are also partnering with institutions in East Africa such as the PTA Bank whose main focus is trade financing. We also partner with some commercial banks like First Bank UK, and Ecobank which support trade. So, we support trade through such partnership with institutions.

What have been the major challenges of the AFC?
I think initially, it was just trying to demonstrate that infrastructure financing is viable in Africa. We are like a proof of the viability of infrastructure financing.

What do you see of the AFC in the next few years?
Africa’s future can be built on three institutions, and I have been involved in all. The AfDB, obviously, is the primary institution which is a partnership between Africa and an African interest. Then you have the Cairo-based African Export and Import Bank (Afreximbank), which primarily deals with short-term trade finance. And you have the AFC as the third leg of that tripod which should provide infrastructure financing. For me, those are the financial institutions in the continent which can build sustainable development in Africa. So, in terms of my long-term vision for the AFC, it is to see the Corporation as a premier financial institution for financing infrastructure in Africa.

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