Leading banks team up to fast-track development in Africa
The signing of this highly anticipated Joint Action Plan comes in the wake of the pandemic whose negative effects are sweeping the continent, and follows years of continued cooperation by the banks to jointly support high-impact and pioneering investment in Africa.
In the last five years alone, the banks have grown a shared portfolio to €3.4bn, leveraging investment that totals €10.2bn for 26 projects, from increasing venture capital financing for innovation and tech companies through the Boost Africa initiative to financing climate and energy initiatives in the Sahel region.
Realising the potential for public banks to accelerate financing in priority policy areas, and following a delegation meeting of AfDB and EIB in February 2020, the Joint Action Plan was established.
Reflecting a shared vision, goals and priorities, the Joint Action Plan will enable the sharing of a pipeline of bankable investment projects around mutually agreed areas, with a strong shared emphasis on boosting public and private sector investment in Africa.
Pandemic accelerates need for action
The partnership comes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which is increasing poverty across the African continent and threatening markets and livelihoods, heightening the urgency for action.
Commenting on the priorities of the Joint Action Plan, African Development Bank’s Acting Senior VP Bajabulile Swazi Tshabalala stated that sustainable economic growth and security in regions facing particular challenges, such as the Sahel and Horn of Africa, were top ot the list.
“It is crucial that more multinational development banks and other development finance institutions commit to closer and stronger collaboration in order to more efficiently and effectively support our regional member countries during these troubling times,” he added.
Shared priorities for supporting transformation
The plan reflects AfDB’s High 5 development priority areas as well as EIB’s priority areas for Africa, with both institutions having devoted financing for rapid response to meet budgetary and health needs of African countries in the wake of COVID-19.
Among agreed investment themes are climate action and environmental sustainability, health, education and training, and financial inclusion with a gender lens aimed at the empowerment of girls and women. Further project areas include transformative large-scale quality infrastructure investment and ICT infrastructure and services.
According to Thomas Ostros, European Investment VP at EIB , the Action Plan “demonstrates the firm commitment of the European Investment Bank, the EU Bank, to delivering investment that makes a real difference to Africa” and together the EIB and AfDB intend to “enhance cooperation and engagement with African partners to ensure that Africa emerges from the health, social and economic challenges of COVID-19 to an even brighter 21st Century”.
Building on track record of joint support across Africa
Recognising the unique role of publicly owned development banks in pioneering investment and mobilising private sector financing, EIB and AfDB have grown their shared portfolio to €3.4bn, leveraging investment totalling €10.2bn for 26 projects across Africa, including commitment to the Desert to Power programme .
Thie unique financial and technical contribution of public banks was further demonstrated earlier this month when the EIB and AfDB Presidents confirmed enhanced support for biodiversity and investment across the Sahel under the Great Green Wall initiative confirmed at the One Planet summit hosted by the French President Macron and Prince Charles.
In recent years the EIB and AfDB have jointly supported clean energy, water, transport and private sector projects across the continent, from Morocco in the north and Senegal in the West, to Kenya in the East and Zambia in the South, and elsewhere across Africa.
The African Development Bank Group and the European Investment Bank have a long history of cooperation, framed by their relationship as Multilateral Development Banks and a Memorandum of Understanding on an Enhanced Strategic Partnership, signed in 2005, between the EIB, the AfDB and the European Commission. They have also signed a Procedural Framework for co-financed public sector projects.
UK office space slashed as hybrid working looks set to stay
With hybrid predicted to be the working model of the future, and businesses both large and small announcing that WFH will continue for employees into the future, the traditional office space is being re-thought.
Businesses are both questioning how much space they need for a hybrid working future, especially if it means they can potentially save money, and what form that space should take.
UK firms slashing office space
Back as early as February, HSBC – whose real estate footprint currently stretches to around 112 football pitches worldwide – said it would be cutting its post-COVID office space by half globally and by 40% in London over the next few years, as it looks to implementation of a hybrid working model in light of the pandemic.
Lloyds Bank followed suit. Following an internal survey where 77% of employees said they wanted to continue to work for 3+ days a week post-pandemic, the bank announced it was also moving to a hybrid model, and so looking to cut its office space by 20% over the next two years.
In fact, the latest research from consulting firm PwC reveals that a third of organisations surveyed (258 of the UK’s largest companies) believe they will reduce their office footprint by more than 30%.
The findings of PwC’s Occupier Survey indicate there is likely to be a sizeable fall in occupied office space with half of executives surveyed saying that despite taking into account mass vaccinations, employees will continue to work virtually 2-3 days a week.
And companies continue to announce the hybrid working model for their employees. Accountancy firm EY has just announced that its 17,000 employees are moving to a hybrid way of working, WFH for at least two days a week. This follows PwC which in March said workers could stay at home for half the time and KPMG which this month said it would expect employees to only work two days in the office every week.
More collaborative work spaces
However, what’s also clear from PwC’s research is that the role of the office is not going to disappear completely, but instead adapt to a new way of working, with half of all organisations with more than 100 employees saying they have a real estate and workplace strategy that considers the long-term impact of COVID-19.
“We may see an increased demand for flexible space as many businesses operating models may well need that option if holding dead space is to be avoided,” says Angus Johnson, UK Real Estate Leader at PwC UK.
According to the survey, more than three quarters of respondents said they are likely to reconfigure existing office with 43% of financial services firms stating that they are extremely likely to do so as a result of the pandemic.
“It’s also clear that the nature and purpose of office space is going to change. As occupiers seek new, different space to meet their accommodation needs, environmental aspects will be increasingly important. If the real estate sector is to truly succeed as a more dynamic, greener industry it’s imperative that creative thinking comes to the fore.”
And companies are already thinking creatively how they can utilise office space in a hybrid future. So while HSBC is cutting a significant amount of office space, it is not downsizing its prestigious Canary Wharf headquarters, and instead reimagining the space. In April, CEO Noel Quinn announced the firm was embracing an open plan floor, with no designated desks or private offices, and instead using hot-desks in line with the future hybrid working style. “My leadership team and I have moved to a fully open-plan floor of the building in east London with no designated desks,” he said on LinkedIn.
Lloyds also reported it was adapting its office space, so that rather than individual offices, it will have a more collaborative workspace. And just last month, KPMG announced it too was ditching desks and individual offices, and replacing them with meeting rooms and conference halls for a more collaborative workspace.