Press Releases

IFC and Banque Belgolaise Set Up West Africa Trade Enhancement Facility

Walid Chérif
Phone: (202) 458 4550


Scott Stevenson

Phone: (202) 458 5697


Washington, D.C. May 19, 2003—The International Finance Corporation and Banque Belgolaise have signed an agreement to set up a two-year $32 million West Africa Trade Enhancement Facility.  The facility is designed to help private sector West African importers and exporters with financing to import capital goods and raw materials.

IFC will guarantee letter of credit confirmations made by Banque Belgolaise to eight West African banks. IFC’s guarantee will cover up to 50 percent ($16 million) of the letter of credit amount.

The facility will create a more competitive and lower-cost letter of credit market for importers and allow local participating banks to be more competitive vis-à-vis multinational banks. It will initially include banks in six countries: Burkina Faso; Guinea; Cote d’Ivoire; Benin; Sénégal; and Cameroon. IFC’s exposure to any issuing bank will not exceed 50 percent of the total letter of credit amount.

According to Mr. Karl Voltaire, IFC’s director for Global Financial Markets, the facility will “increase the availability of trade finance to local importers by supplementing country limits available to commercial banks, promote confidence in the private banking sector, and build the reputation of the selected banks in the international market.”

Ms. Haydee Celaya, IFC’s director for Sub-Saharan Africa, added, “The facility will allow IFC to reach a large number of importers, particularly among small and medium enterprises. Assuming the average transaction time is four months, the facility will turn over three times a year, resulting in the provision of $192 million for trade finance purposes, if fully utilized over the two-year period.”

Banque Belgolaise, which has experience in trade finance in Africa, has offices in 15 African countries where it provides commercial, merchant, and private banking services. The bank is headquartered in Brussels with branches in London and Paris. Its strategy is to progressively take a majority stake in selected countries and increase trade finance volumes.  In 1998, Banque Belgolaise was purchased by the Brussels-based Fortis Bank (64 percent) with the balance held by public shareholders (34 percent) and Degroof Bank (2 percent).  The bank’s French subsidiary, based in Paris, will act as the confirming bank for the facility.  

IFC’s mission is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people's lives.  IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses. Since its founding in 1956 through FY02, IFC has committed more than $34 billion of its own funds and arranged $21 billion in syndications for 2,825 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC's worldwide committed portfolio as of FY02 was $15.1 billion for its own account and $6.5 billion held for participants in loan syndications.