Norwegian Investment Fund for developing countries, Norfund, recently organized its first stakeholder event in Nigeria which hosted key players across multiple industries in the private sector to provide an update on its activities in Nigeria and West Africa. The exclusive forum and luncheon held at Lagos Continental Hotel announced Norfund’s intention to increase investments in Nigeria and the West African region with the aim of driving development through investments in the private sector and creating jobs. Owned and funded by the Norwegian government, Norfund is the government’s most important instrument for strengthening the private sector in developing countries, by providing capital through its investments, whilst creating jobs and improving lives.
The fund, which was established by the Norwegian Parliament in 1997, is focused on driving sustainable development with capital in the form of equity, debt and hybrid instruments, and fund investments to businesses and projects with strong developmental impact and commercial returns. As a responsible investor, Norfund contributes to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by investing for both commercial return and development impact and focusing on countries and sectors where capital is scarce and development impact is likely to be strong.
Giving the opening remarks, Eivind Fjeldstad, Business Counsellor, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Abuja, who represented His Excellency Knut Eiliv Lein, the Ambassador of Norway to Nigeria, said, “Set to become the world’s third most populated country, Nigeria is Norway’s most important market on the African continent as we believe that there is a huge opportunity for growth in Nigerian industries. We are impressed by the measures taken by the government to strengthen the startup community especially, as underlined by The Startup Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October. Moreover, Norway is in the process of updating its African strategy and I’m proud that the Norway-Nigeria relations reflect this with business and investments taking centre stage. We thank Norfund for its role in strengthening Nigerian-Norway relations in the most meaningful way.”
In her remarks, Ellen Cathrine Rasmussen, Executive Vice-President, Scalable Enterprises, Norfund, spoke about Norfund’s mandate to assist in building sustainable businesses and industries. She said, “At the core of Norfund’s operations is the mission to create jobs, improve lives, and invest in sustainable businesses. Operating within the framework of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which we are a part of, we are able to set our strategy, make investment decisions, and remain agile whilst adapting to market opportunities. Africa is the most important region for Norfund. A minimum of 50% of investments we commit to are on the continent because it is the market of the future. We not only support the companies we invest in but also nurture the entire ecosystem as its collective strength will enable us to aid Nigeria in sustainable growth. Nigeria is of key importance to Norfund due to its strategic geographical placement, young and vibrant population, and ever-growing economy. Norfund is here to contribute to realizing this growth potential.”
Norfund’s Regional Director for West Africa, Naana Winful Fynn, highlighted, “Norfund looks to add value outside of its provision of investment capital in many ways, including supporting companies to institutionalize by developing on the governance, risk management and systems and processes fronts; by supporting companies in the realization of their strategic plans and by providing businesses with technical assistance.”
The event also included a panel session with the topic – “Value Addition in Challenging Markets.” Moderated by Obafemi Awobokun, Investment Manager at Norfund, it featured key speakers including Ebele Enunwa, CEO, Sundry Foods; Abiola Ojo-Osagie, Senior Partner and Managing Director, AfricInvest; Nathaniel Durant, Group Director, OH Ecosystems; Nieros Oyegun Soerensen, Partner, Verod; and Femi Adeyemo, CEO, Arnergy Solar Limited.
With a total investment portfolio of USD 3.1 Billion, Norfund focuses on sub-Saharan Africa alongside South-East Asia and Central America. The fund invests directly in the renewable energy, financial inclusion, green infrastructure, and scalable enterprises (agribusiness and manufacturing) sectors, alongside investments in private equity, venture capital, and other funds. Beneficiaries of its investments in Nigeria include Sundry Foods, a food services company that provides good-quality meals through its chain of Kilimanjaro restaurants; Arnergy, a Cleantech company offering sustainable solar solutions for productive use in Nigeria; OH Ecosystems which was established to build and operate cocoa processing and confectionery businesses across Africa; and Starsight, a commercial and industrial solar power supplier in Nigeria and Ghana. Furthermore, Norfund has made loans to FCMB Bank and Access Bank (Ghana and Nigeria). It is also an investor in several funds investing in Nigeria, including funds managed by Verod Capital, AfricInvest, Development Partners International, Helios, Novastar Ventures, European Financing Partners, Inspired Evolution, and ResponsAbility.
Other investee companies in the region include CBI Ghana, Valency CIV, Nouvelle Mici Embaci (NME), Aktivco and Baobab+. Norfund is also a lender to several banks in the region, including Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), First National Bank Ghana, and CAL Bank.
The stakeholder event further showcases Norfund’s commitment to supporting businesses in the private sector that drive sustainable economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. Norfund also reaffirmed the strategic importance of Nigeria to its operations, as a result of its large and vibrant population, economic prospects, and vast pool of strong and resilient entrepreneurs.
Norfund is the Norwegian Investment Fund for developing countries. Its mission is to create jobs and improve lives by investing in businesses that drive sustainable development. Norfund is owned and funded by the Norwegian Government and is the Government’s most important tool for strengthening the private sector in developing countries, and for reducing poverty. Norfund’s mandate is defined by the Norfund Act of 1997. The Act states that Norfund’s role is to assist in building sustainable businesses and industries in developing countries by providing equity capital and other risk capital.