Africa: Green Bonds to Serve Africa's Sustainable Investment Needs

Green bonds to serve Africa's sustainable investment needs; Innovative finance instrument can help fill the SDG financing gap

Green, Social, and Sustainable (GSS) bonds market is a new frontier that can help Africa build a deeper, resilient, and sustainable financing, according to policymakers, regulators, and peer sovereign issuers from across West Africa.

The experts were speaking at a virtual workshop on GSS Bond Market Development to build awareness and explore the potential issuance of GSS bonds in West Africa by sovereign government issuers or subnational entities. The virtual workshop was co-organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the World Bank and the United Nations last week in West Africa.

Hanan Morsy, UNECA's Deputy Executive Secretary said, "As an innovative finance instrument, GSS bonds help fill the SDG financing gap. While sharing characteristics with traditional bonds, GSS bonds exclusively direct financing to projects with positive climate and environmental outcomes across energy, transportation, construction, agriculture and water sectors."

"ECA has demonstrated that a green recovery, based on green investments, can generate up to 420% better returns in gross value added and up to 250% better returns in job creation." She noted that the workshop is the first in a series covering GSS bonds development in different sub-regions in Africa.

The aim of the workshop was to build awareness and explore the potential issuance of green and other GSS bonds in West Africa, potentially by sovereign government issuers or subnational entities.

Given the vast investor demand and potential for GSS bonds to serve the sustainable investment needs of Africa, this workshop objective was to share information about the GSS bond market internationally and the potential for GSS bonds in West Africa.

"Financing the critical needs of green growth and adaptation in Africa is a core mandate of the World Bank. Green and sustainable bonds, together with the increased level of transparency that they bring with them, can help many countries in the region in their journey towards securing market financing for future investments," said Jorge Familiar, World Bank Vice President and Treasurer.

"The World Bank stands ready to partner with stakeholders across West Africa on this journey."

The global sustainable bond issuance they said reached more than $1.1 trillion in 2021 and is expected to surpass $1.5 trillion in 2022. However, sovereign sustainable bond issuance is still quite limited, representing only 11% of the total in 2021.

In Africa, there have only been four sovereign issuers of GSS bonds.

Jean-Paul Adam, the director, Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management Division at UNECA noted that Africa has low private sector investment and high costs of capital to invest in green, sustainable, or social sectors.

"While Africa has 23% of official climate finance, it has less than 1% of global green bond issuances and is paying more than twice more than similarly rated peers to access markets," noted the ECA Director.

He said Africa faces today multiple challenges that include, debt burden and historical high cost of borrowing; recovery post COVID-19; climate change related issues; energy and food shortages due to the Ukraine war.

These challenges makes it even more necessary for African States to benefit from new ways to raise money from Private Investors in a transparent and efficient framework and at reasonable rates.

Discussions at the workshop featured on the new market trends, practical experience from recent sovereign GSS bond issuers, requirements for GSS bond programs, a discussion of the benefits and costs associated with issuing different types of GSS bonds, and areas of potential ECA, World Bank and other donor support.

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