AfDB Signs € 10 Million Private Sector Loan Agreement with SIAT-Gabon for Agricultural Expansion Project
Tunis, 19 February 2008 - The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has signed an agreement for a loan of € 10 million under its private sector window with the Tropical Agriculture Investment Company (SIAT) of Gabon to finance an agriculture expansion project in the country.
The agreement was signed on Tuesday in Tunis by the Vice President in charge of Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration, Mandla Gantsho, and the Chairman of SIAT-Gabon, Pierre Vandebeeck, in the presence of the AfDB Executive Director for Gabon, Frederic Korsaga.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Mr. Gantsho noted that the rubber and oil palm plantations expansion project will create some 520 permanent employment with women constituting about 35% of the permanent workforce and about 40% of the seasonal workers, thereby making a positive impact on the population of Woleu-Ntem and Moyen-Ogooue provinces of the country.
"The development of a dynamic private sector in the Regional Member Countries ranks high among the Bank Group’s priorities to support sustainable development and reduce poverty in Africa. We give special attention to projects that are designed to provide high development impact," he emphasized.
Noting that the agricultural expansion is one of such projects that have proved to be effective midway between large private firms and micro and small enterprises, because of its outgrower rubber scheme which will support 500 farmers and provide them with training to enhance their skills and improve their productivity.
Mr. Gantsho noted that collaboration with the SIAT Group began in December 2002 with an approval of a € 7.14 million loan to Ghana Oil Company, adding that the signing of Tuesday’s agreement marked the consolidation of the collaboration between SIAT and the Bank Group.
"We have been impressed by the good governance demonstrated by the SIAT Group in the Ghana project. We look forward to this new project and hoping that SIAT Gabon will become an example of best practices for corporate governance, transparency and accountability, which could be replicated in future Bank interventions of similar nature," Mr. Gantsho said.
Speaking on the occasion, SIAT-Gabon Chairman, Pierre Vandebeeck, explained that the company, which has invested heavily in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire, started operations in Gabon four years ago following the acquisition of 7,000 hectares of state plantations which now provide jobs for 3,600 people. The company has moved on level up with a programme to invest 40% equity shares in the local stock exchange in Gabon as one way of empowering the workers.
SIAT-Ghana is the company’s biggest investments with 20,000 hectares under cultivation and employing 6,500 farmers, among other huge investments. The company is doing big agro-business in Nigeria where it is listed on the Nigeria. It moved into Cote d’Ivoire in 2007.
"I believe we have established a track record with the African Development Bank and we hope to continue doing business with you, " he said.
The Executive Director for Cote d’Ivoire, Frederic Korsaga, for his part, said the boards and management of the Bank Group were placing more emphasis on private sector ventures like SIAT for rapid and sustainable growth capable of helping poverty reduction and job creation efforts in African countries.
He noted that given the continent’s rising population, which is projected to reach 1.5 billion in 2030, two major challenges that the continent would face would be food self sufficiency and job-creation.The private sector must be fully involved as such huge tasks cannot be left with governments alone, he added.