Lagos, Nigeria, February 13, 2006—The
International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World
Bank Group, has signed a loan agreement with SocketWorks Limited—the first
such initiative in Nigeria’s higher education sector—to support its rollout
of CollegePortal into select Nigerian universities. CollegePortal is a
package of information and communication technologies that will provide
students with the tools to become fully computer literate.
IFC’s loan of up to $2.5 million (about NGN350 million) will enable SocketWorks
to develop software and purchase computers and other hardware for Nigeria’s
universities. University students, faculty, and administrators will have
access to a full suite of online management systems and study tools, including
offshore libraries and other information sources. The implementation of
CollegePortal has been shown to reduce the administrative burden faced
by staff and students significantly. As part of its investment, IFC has
an option to take an equity stake in SocketWorks.
IFC has been providing technical assistance to SocketWorks since 2003 and
will continue to do so in parallel with the present loan. Besides strengthening
management capacity and improving corporate governance, IFC’s technical
assistance will help the company develop the capability to expand its product
offerings and take its business model to other parts of the African continent.
Loans available to private sector companies in Nigeria are generally short
term and not appropriate for longer-term investments. Moreover, it is difficult
for Nigeria’s cash-strapped universities to fund the purchase of expensive
computer equipment and software systems. The market and operational expertise
of SocketWorks, combined with the longer-term loan provided by IFC, will
permit Nigeria’s universities to have access to information and communication
technologies that are so critical in the education sector today.
The agreement was signed in Lagos by Mr. Lars Thunell, IFC’s executive
vice president, during his first official visit to Nigeria, and by Dr.
Aloy Chife, president and CEO of SocketWorks.
Mr Thunell noted, “I am very pleased that the first investment agreement
I am signing after joining IFC last month is to support a project in Africa’s
education sector. It will help implement a plan begun in 2003 when IFC
began working with SocketWorks to identify Nigeria’s information and communication
technology needs in higher education and develop a sustainable plan to
service those needs. This is an excellent example of how hard working and
determined entrepreneurs—in partnership with IFC—can expand opportunities
Mr. Chife added, “SocketWorks is happy to develop our relationship with
IFC. In addition to the funding, which will assist in the rollout of vitally
needed information technology to Nigerian universities, we value the financial
and non-financial support that IFC has provided us and which we expect
will continue in the future.”
The mission of IFC (www.ifc.org)
is to promote sustainable private sector investment in emerging markets,
helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. IFC finances private
sector investments in developing countries, mobilizes capital in the international
financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability,
and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.
From its founding in 1956 through FY05, IFC has committed more than $49
billion of its own funds and arranged $24 billion in syndications for 3,319
companies in 140 developing countries. IFC’s worldwide committed portfolio
as of FY05 was $19.3 billion for its own account and $5.3 billion held
for participants in loan syndications.