The European Investment Bank, supported by the European Union has launched a new EUR 50 million (KES5.7 billion) agriculture sector financing programme to support long-term investment by agriculture companies in Africa.
Dubbed the Kenya Agriculture Value Chain Facility, the initiative, run through Equity Bank across the country will help agriculture companies to modernise and harness the full economic, employment and export potential of agriculture as well as expand business with local smallholders.
“As the EU Bank, the EIB is pleased to strengthen our close cooperation with Kenyan partners and the European Union Delegation to ensure that agricultural investment can increase under an exciting new scheme that acts as a model for our engagement across Africa.” said Catherine Collin, European Investment Bank regional representative for East Africa.
Equity Bank is the first Kenyan partner to participate in the Kenya Agriculture Value Chain Facility and other financial institutions are expected to join later. Equity Bank is one of the key financial institutions supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya and is a leading provider of financial services to rural communities and smallholders.
According to Polycarp Igathe, Equity Bank Kenya Managing Director, “This credit facility will be used for on-lending of up to 50% of project costs to beneficiaries who are eligible. The enterprises we are targeting include Value Chain SMEs in agribusinesses that are supporting a smallholder farmer base.”
Agriculture is the leading source of economic activity, employment and exports in Kenya. Agriculture contributes directly and indirectly to 51% of Kenyan GDP and accounts for 60% of jobs in the country.
Under the new financing programme agricultural companies across Kenya will be able to access Kenya Shilling loans with maturities of up to 7 years, longer than commonly available in the market. This is expected to help companies to expand, upgrade and modernise their equipment thereby improving productivity, and strengthening integration of smallholders into the agricultural value chain.
The new European Investment Bank financing scheme will be supported by a EUR 10 million grant under European Union’s Kenya AgriFI programme. This will cover currency-hedging costs and technical assistance.
Since 2007 the European Investment Bank has made available £1 billion for private sector investment in East Africa through credit lines in both local and international currency in partnership with more than 25 banks and financial institutions in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
In the last decade the EIB has provided more than EUR 6 billion for private sector investment across Africa through local banks and financial institutions.
“It is good to see the European Union’s bank, the European Investment Bank, partner with Equity Bank. This is the first time the EU funds the private sector in the agricultural sector in Kenya directly. There is a great deal of expectation on this new approach. The EU chose it in Kenya because we recognize that smallholder farmers do not need handouts: they need an enabling environment to be successful market operators. This requires access to finance and reducing the risk of investing in a difficult environment.” said Walter Tretton, Chargé d’affaires of the European Union delegation to Kenya.
Equity Bank has also set up a Commercial Representative Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as it prepares to commence operations in the market with over 100 million people.
The Bank has appointed Hassan Maalim as the Head of the Commercial Representative Office which will be based at Kazanchis-Addis Ababa Ethiopia and is expected to be fully operational in July this year.
Equity Group CEO and MD, Dr. James Mwangi said, “Having completed Phase One of our expansion, the entry into Ethiopia is part of our Phase Two expansion in pursuit of our aspiration of being a Pan African Bank with presence in 10 African countries by the end of the year. This will enable the Bank to continue to scale up and unlock economies of scale especially in this era of digitization and virtualization of banking.”
The entry into Ethiopia comes soon after Equity Group announced the Bank’s entry into Zambia and Mozambique after striking a preliminary agreement with Atlas Mara Limited to exchange ordinary shares in the Group for controlling equity stakes in four banks operating in Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. With the addition of Ethiopia, the Bank will now have operations in a regional market with a combined population of nearly 500 million people, including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and DRC.