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Côte d’Ivoire agrees €200mn deal for ECA-backed clean water project

Authorities in Côte d’Ivoire have agreed a €200mn transaction with KfW Ipex-Bank, Swedish Export Credit Corporation (SEK) and Bluebird Finance & Projects to install clean water systems across more than a thousand villages, GTR understands. 

Signed in early August, the transaction is backed by Swedish export credit agency EKN, with reinsurance by the Netherlands’ Atradius, carrying a tenor of 16 years, according to people familiar with the deal. 

Frankfurt-headquartered KfW Ipex-Bank is providing financing for 55% of the project and acts as mandated lead arranger and facility agent, while Swedish state-owned SEK is providing the remaining  45%. Israel-based Bluebird, which has now closed financing deals worth US$1.7bn for African projects over the last six years, acts as financial advisor. 

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Construction is expected to take four years. Once complete, the network of pipes, boreholes and pumps – as well as solar panels in smaller villages – will bring clean water to around a tenth of Côte d’Ivoire’s population. 

“This landmark deal is the pure essence of our work: an export finance deal which will enable clean and accessible drinking water for 3 million people,” says Ram Shalita, chief executive and partner at Bluebird, speaking to GTR. “We thank our great partners at EKN, SEK, KfW Ipex, Atradius and Baran for this great achievement.” 

Baran International, a subsidiary of Israel-based contractor Baran Group, is the main engineering and construction firm, as well as the exporter. 

The borrower is Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Finance, while the buyer is the country’s Ministry of Hydraulics, via its water utility, Office National de l’Eau Potable. 

The project is part of the government’s ‘Water For All’ initiative, a multi-year plan to improve water supply in rural areas – particularly in villages where residents must walk several kilometres to reach a well. 

The effort to bring water to such communities is “a fantastic project” and the first such transaction in Côte d’Ivoire, says Per Edlundh, director, export and project finance at SEK. 

“In order to get the project fully financed, a commercial down payment facility is provided by the lenders and SEK will for the first time take on Ivory Coast risk,” he tells GTR. “I believe this structure may successfully be used in future deals in the region.” 

In terms of ECA cover, the Swedish components of the deal are managed by Gothenburg-headquartered business facilitator Elof Hansson, while water specialist firm Dutchso manages the Netherlands components. 

“Elof Hansson International has made it possible for Swedish companies to join international tenders for engineering, procurement and construction projects, and made Swedish export possible,” Michael Regmert, senior underwriter at EKN, tells GTR. 

“EKN is very proud of being part of the financing solution for this sustainable project, which is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Bluebird adds that care has been taken to complete installation with the cooperation of local communities, and with a focus on the new systems being operational and active for the long term. 

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