Development finance lenders from the UK and the Netherlands have agreed to loan US$40mn to Ethiopia’s Dashen Bank, in a deal aimed at bolstering hard currency liquidity in the African agricultural export sector.

Under the agreement, the British International Investment (BII) and the FMO, a Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, have each committed to provide US$20mn, which Dashen Bank will on-lend in US dollars to Ethiopian farmers. Such support will cover the costs of importing machinery and ultimately boost export earnings, the BII says.

The majority of Ethiopians, as much as 80% of the population, work in agriculture and the sector is responsible for the bulk of export revenues. The country exported nearly US$1.2bn-worth of coffee in 2021, UN Comtrade data show.

The BII and FMO say they are the first foreign financial institutions to provide long-term funding under a National Bank of Ethiopia directive, first announced in 2020, aimed at the financial services sector.

Commercial lenders in Ethiopia had previously been forbidden from borrowing foreign currency from external sources but are now able to seek out loans in the form of US dollars, Canadian dollars, China yuan, Japanese yen and British pounds.

“We are proud to be amongst the first movers in a financial market opening up to international investment with this transformative commitment,” says Stephen Priestley, managing director and head of financial services at BII.