G20 Panel recommends Sokoni technology platform for infrastructure development in Africa

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G20 leaders today welcomed the recommendations of the High-Level Panel for Infrastructure Development, endorsing the development of the Sokoni Africa Infrastructure Marketplace.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and top Silicon Valley software engineering firm Zanbato Group teamed up to create Sokoni, the first online marketplace for infrastructure projects in Africa. Sokoni is a technology platform that increases the quality of information available to investors through better links to project sponsors and financiers.

In 2010, the G20 created a panel of high profile individuals with specific expertise in private investment and infrastructure development. The panel was instructed to provide regional initiative recommendations for scaling up and diversifying financing for infrastructure needs, including public, semi-public and private sector resources, and to identify, with multilateral development banks, a list of concrete regional initiatives. Sokoni emerges as one of these.

Sokoni, which is the Swahili word for ‘market,’ provides dynamic project profiles for public projects, private projects and public-private partnerships. It is a single network that essentially connects project opportunities with capital providers.

By enhancing efficiency, transparency and connectivity in the market, Sokoni will bring participants together and help mobilise capital from Africa and abroad. It will also create jobs and contribute to economic growth on the African continent.

The African infrastructure renaissance continues to grow, as the continent strives to bolster its investments. In 2010, more than USD55 billion were invested in new infrastructure investment across the continent. Recent studies show that returns on infrastructure investment on the continent, especially in energy, are among the highest in the world. And major donors have significantly scaled up their commitments to infrastructure in Africa. Some estimates show that African infrastructure could generate USD200 billion in annual revenues for private companies by 2020.

“The African Development Bank and Zanbato are delighted to be working together on this exciting and innovative project,” said Bobby Pittman, Vice President for Infrastructure and Private Sector Development at the African Development Bank. “The African Development Bank has financed more than 150 infrastructure projects over the last five years alone. Sokoni now gives us an even more systematic way of promoting and sharing these opportunities with other donors and global investors.”

Ryan Orr, Co-Chairman and CEO, Zanbato Group, and Professor of Global Project Finance and Infrastructure Investment at Stanford University, said: “Right now there are a lot of sponsors with projects that are critical for economic development, that are not getting funded. That’s because they're not getting in front of the right eyes, they're too small to get real attention, or they're not being presented effectively. We are happy the G-20 acknowledges Sokoni’s potential and are thrilled to partner with the African Development Bank to create an online market for infrastructure projects in Africa.”

Sokoni is expected to bring tremendous benefits to its users. It will help African governments and private sponsors access more potential financiers and receive valuable feedback. It will generate more infrastructure and improve access for nearly one billion people who currently face the largest infrastructure gaps in the world. Public players will be able to coordinate and use funds more efficiently.

The platform will also radically improve the speed, availability and quality of information flows between market participants, and greatly reduce transaction costs.

The AfDB and Zanbato began conceptual work on the partnership in April. The team began to populate Sokoni with the first set of project opportunities in August and will officially launch it with over 50 projects in early 2012. The platform is open to public and private sponsors, investors, donors, transaction advisors and other key stakeholders in the African infrastructure market. Membership is tightly vetted with only pre-approved participants accessing the site. Sponsors will always have control of the current and next level of disclosure information. Sokoni is expected to be formally launched in early 2012.