Following the official launch of its first African representative office in Johannesburg last week, Canadian ECA EDC has announced plans to grow its total business in Africa to US$10bn over the next five years.

The new office is being led by Jean-Bernard Ruggeri, chief representative, Sub-Saharan Africa, who joined EDC in Toronto in May 2014 and recently moved to Joahnnesburg. He previously worked in banking for 15 years, including positions held at CIBC and National Bank of Canada.

He tells GTR that South Africa presented itself as a “good hub” and as such the prime location for the ECA’s first permanent office on the continent.

“We look at the number and volumes of transactions, and we listen to our clients. South Africa is the most diversified economy on the continent, and a big part of our active clients and customers of our clients are based in the country,” he explains. “Even though Africa may not be the first office Canadian exporters think about, more and more customers are talking about opportunities on the continent.”

EDC has helped facilitate more than US$7.4bn in business between African and Canadian companies over the past five years, and according to a recent statement issued by the ECA, Africa’s massive infrastructure demands and growing loan market are creating conditions in which EDC would like to grow its business in the market to US$10bn in the next five years.

“If the volumes and number of transactions increase over the coming years, we might find another place to set up on the African continent,” Ruggeri tells GTR.
EDC’s financing is available to Sub-Saharan corporates and project owners that have, or are open to considering, business with Canadian companies, or their affiliates in the region.

“EDC will be looking to provide commercial financing for Sub-Saharan corporates and project owners where Canadian suppliers are involved, or where there is potential for Canadian involvement. In addition, EDC will actively pursue opportunities to partner with South African and European banks within their syndicated financing facilities for select Sub-Saharan corporates that have, or are open to, Canadian interests,” says a statement.

According to Ruggeri, his specific remit will be to open the door to Canadian capabilities, meet with procurement teams and promote Canadian suppliers. “We don’t target everybody: we target what we think is a good match for potential customers in Africa,” he says.

Key sectors of interest for EDC as it expands into the broader African market include commodities, infrastructure, ICT, clean technology, transportation and agriculture. In South Africa specifically, EDC recently backed a Transnet loan for the acquisition of locomotives from Bombardier.