The U.S. Government’s development finance institution, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has signed a commitment for a US$20 million direct loan to International Bank Liberia Limited (IBLL) to support lending in sectors such as construction, services, manufacturing, agribusiness, hospitality, and transportation.
The agreement also seeks to foster jobs and opportunities by supporting investments in key economic areas and increasing long term lending to Liberia’s private sector.
OPIC President and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth L. Littlefield, who signed the commitment on Monday, observed that the Liberian banking sector is faced with a number of critical challenges, which the loan will allow to expand.
“We are pleased to be working with IBLL on this facility,” said Mrs. Littlefield. “The OPIC loan agreement will allow IBLL to address a gap in the marketplace by providing clients in the road infrastructure construction sector, manufacturing sector, agribusiness sector, and other industries with long term credit facilities which will enable those clients to significantly contribute to Liberia’s economic recovery.”
She said OPIC’s role is to provide long-term loans and risk mitigation to support such investments.
“Our portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa has grown by more than $6 billion in recent years. However, that is still too small, and we aim to change that. We are here to listen and learn, as those who live within an economy invariably have the greatest insight into its needs and potential, and into what needs to be done to attract and keep the private investment that is so essential to job creation,” she said.
Mrs. Littlefield emphasized that her company is in the country to stand in solidarity with Liberians—along with the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Power Africa interagency coalition—to underscore that the future of the two nations (Liberia and U.S.) will continue to be intertwined.
“We are here to offer Liberian companies face-to-face access to investors and to provide information about the resources that OPIC and interested investors may be able to share,” she said.
Also speaking, Pan African Capital Group founder and Chief Executive Officer, Stephen D. Cashin, said they are excited to be working with OPIC on the loan facility and appreciate the confidence OPIC has in IBLL; one of the strongest and most profitable commercial banks in Liberia. With its young, energetic, and committed Liberian management team, IBLL will continue to grow as one of the leading financial institutions in the country.
For his part, IBLL Chief Executive Officer Henry F. Saamoi said he is proud that his company has survived the trials and tribulations brought upon the country as a result of the civil crisis and followed by the scourge of the Ebola Virus Disease.
“Madam Littlefield, Madam Ambassador and other development partners, health security is at the core of the fund,” he said. “The Ebola crisis proved that the definition of public health needs to be broader than just hospitals. It needs to be expanded to investment in jobs, manufacturing, skills building and economic sustainability.
“Our country, struggling to recover from the twin shocks of the Ebola crisis and the sharp decline in commodity prices, has led to business closures, including mining concessions and consequently the loss of jobs and reduction in the fiscal revenue envelope of the country.”
Mr. Saamoi said IBLL will therefore identify and use the loan to support strategic operating partners to build companies to capitalize on the opportunities that will have maximum impact on the Liberian market.
Based in Monrovia, the loan’s management team will be led by the Pan African Capital Group of Liberians with extensive experience in managing investments. The team will be supported by investors with significant Sub-Saharan African and Liberian Experience, the IBLL CEO said.
“Today is a significant moment for IBLL and this initiative has come a long way, but it was worth all the efforts, and we want to give special thanks to Mr. Michael McNutly of OPIC, who worked tirelessly with IBLL in getting us to this point and our very own Stephen Murray and Gerald Woels of the Pan African Capital Group,” he added.
Saamoi further acknowledged the role of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for the level of support and the supervisory oversight that has stabilized the banking sector, thus generating trust and confidence in the Liberian banking system.