How to bridge the investment gap in the clean energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa?
A knowledge sharing and networking event between Finland-based development funders was organised to showcase and provide insights on financing for and working with local companies in the region. It also provided an opportunity to forge new partnerships and to explore how financing could be brought closer to the local companies.
EEP Africa, Finnfund and Finnpartnership co-hosted an interactive networking event on 28 September 2023 in Helsinki. The event gathered around 80 participants and was targeted at Finnish companies, NGOs, governmental offices, and academics who are interested in engaging in the clean energy markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.
After a brief welcome from the cohosts, Jussi Viding, EEP Africa Fund Manager and Marko Berglund, Senior Development Impact Advisor at Finnfund, the event began with SNV’s Global Head of Energy Martijn Veen giving an overview of the clean energy sector, acknowledging that energy access remains a significant global challenge. SNV is a global development partner in the areas of agri-food, energy, and water systems and EEP Africa’s implementation partner, that provides the thematic expertise and regional presence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Martijn Veen underlined that “The struggle of companies to achieve self-sustaining operations is a central issue.” He further elaborated on the opportunity to reduce investment risks to stimulate the development of early-stage projects, facilitating early-stage companies’ journey towards commercial viability.
Susanne Hounsell, EEP Africa Head of Portfolio, underscored the significant demand for early-stage financing. The EEP Africa trust fund provides risk capital and offers technical assistance to companies. Chiedza Mazaiwana and Faith Chege, EEP Africa Portfolio Managers, reinforced this point by presenting a number of case studies of former EEP Africa grantee companies in Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa, that have subsequently also managed to secure commercial financing.
Commentaries were provided by Ash Sharma, Vice President and Head of Green Transition Special Funds at NEFCO, and Mario Aguilera, CEO and Founder of Tespack Ltd. NEFCO manages Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa which primarily focuses on market acceleration by providing results-based financing to meet the scale-up needs of companies that have reached the next stage in their growth journey. Additionally, he stressed necessity for institutional programs to further alleviate investment risks prevalent in the global south. Mario Aguilera, the founder and CEO of Tespack, a grantee of both EEP Africa and Finnpartnership, talked about the vast potential on the African continent: “Africa is one of the most digitalised continents and renewable energy is widely used.” Furthermore, he emphasized the crucial role of local partners in this context for business growth.
Programme Officer Ville Jokinen presented Finnpartnerships’ work in the Finnish funding landscape for developing markets. According to him, clean energy is not just about an investment to production or distribution but also to the wider infrastructure and value chain around the sector.
Jussi Tourunen, Associate Director, Head of Energy and Infrastructure portfolio at Finnfund emphasized that there is not one solution for the energy challenges on the African continent. Rather, the energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa consists of several markets of different size and characteristics, with a variety of innovative solutions and business models looking for investments. To close the investment gap, we need more project developers with the necessary financial and human resources, and more financiers with high-risk appetite, as well as soft funding.
Senior International Development Expert Visa Tuominen from WWF Finland and CEO Jukka-Pekka Kärkkäinen from FCA Investments provided commentaries on the encouraging trend where development organisations and financial institutions are increasingly aligning their efforts, reinforcing Jukka-Pekka’s Kärkkäinen assertion that “money alone is not the solution.”
The event evoked in-depth discussions on demystifying the risks related to funding early-stage projects and the tone to create linkages between the various stakeholders involved in the sector. A networking opportunity was arranged over lunch after the presentations and discussion concluded.
Finnfund is a Finnish development financier and impact investor. We build a sustainable future and generate lasting impact by investing in businesses that solve global development challenges. We invest 200–250 million euros in 20–30 companies in developing countries each year. Our focus sectors include renewable energy, sustainable forestry, sustainable agriculture, financial institutions, and digital infrastructure and solutions. Today Finnfund’s investments, commitments, and investment decisions total about 1.22 billion euros, half of them in Africa. The company has 100 employees based in Helsinki and Nairobi. For more information, please visit https://www.finnfund.fi/en
Finnpartnership is a Business Partnership Programme under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA), managed by Finnfund. Finnpartnership aims to produce development effects by creating private sector partnerships between companies in Finland and in developing countries. Finnpartnership provides seed project financing, business matchmaking, and training & advisory services.
The Energy and Environment Partnership Trust Fund (EEP Africa) is a clean energy financing facility hosted and managed by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) with funding from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, NDF and Switzerland. EEP Africa provides risk tolerant early-stage grant financing for locally driven innovative clean energy projects and businesses in Southern and Eastern Africa. The grantees aim to provide solutions for diverse purposes, such as e-mobility, clean cooking, irrigation, agricultural processing and storage, household energy and large-scale power production. Since 2010, EEP Africa has committed more than EUR 60 million to over 270 pioneering projects, creating over 11,600 jobs, improving energy access for more than 5 million people, and avoiding 1.8 million tonnes of CO2e. EEP Africa is headed by a fund management unit at NDF. Thematic expertise and regional presence are provided by the implementation support partners, SNV and Open Capital, who work in close collaboration with NDF across all EEP Africa activities.