Stuck Near Ten Billion: Public-Private Infrastructure Finance in Sub-Saharan Africa

Many stress the critical role of the private sector in filling yawning sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) infrastructure finance gaps, only widened by the pandemic. Our paper looks in detail at financially closed (construction-ready) transactions with private participation in SSA from 2007-2020. Despite the “billions to trillions” vision, we find no sustained upward trends for such transactions in volumes of total finance, multilateral development bank (MDB) finance, private finance, the share or volume of local private finance, participation by international institutional investors, or finance from bilateral development finance institutions (DFIs). External finance sources were larger than local sources, with Chinese DFIs dominant and the US DFI a marginal actor. Among MDBs, the African Development Bank provided the most finance cumulatively. Investment in renewable energy outpaced investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, but MDBs continued to make significant fossil fuel investments. Investment in water and social infrastructure remains about 5 percent of the total.

Policy implications include: the urgent need for greater MDB efforts to use their broad toolkits to catalyze more private infrastructure finance, including from local sources and in social sectors; the case for building on the African Development Bank’s advantages; the importance of growing the US Development Finance Corporation’s efforts; and the strong logic for more collaboration among infrastructure finance providers to SSA, including China, with MDBs providing not only finance but also fora for collaboration and support for the policy and institutional reforms that build sustainability and reduce risk for all actors.

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