IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has announced a new financing transaction that takes its annual investments in the region over the US$1bn mark for the first time since its founding in 1956.

To support private sector-led development in Africa, IFC has been pursuing new investment opportunities and expanding its advisory services activities to improve conditions for private investment. The corporation has expanded its local presence across Africa in recent years, while delivering its unique global expertise across sectors.

With the recent announcement of IFC’s US$160mn loan to five African subsidiaries of Celtel International, IFC’s total investments so far this fiscal year amount to US$1.064bn.

IFC provides significant value to clients by offering a range of financial products and advisory services. The Corporation promotes strong environmental, social, and corporate governance standards. It helps African companies achieve international best practices, making them more competitive at home and in the international marketplace.

“Supporting private sector development in Africa is a top priority for IFC,” says IFC executive vice-president and CEO Lars Thunell. “IFC’s rapid expansion of investment and advisory services is demonstrating how the private sector creates opportunities and improves people’s lives. Our presence in Africa provides us with an opportunity to work in areas such as infrastructure and access to finance and help lead development in smaller markets and post-conflict countries.”

“IFC is demonstrating the level of business opportunities available and the development impact that increased private investment can have today in Africa,” adds Thierry Tanoh, IFC director for Sub-Saharan Africa. “Africa’s future growth and investment opportunities depend on the commitment to improving the investment climate. There are still significant challenges ahead, and we are working closely with governments to improve the business-enabling environment and create project structures that attract investment capital, especially in the infrastructure sector.”

IFC’s strategy in Africa is based on three main components: improving the investment climate, enhancing support to small and medium enterprises, and developing new projects to support investments.

For future investments in the region, IFC will focus on financial markets; oil, gas, and mining; and infrastructure. IFC also plans to become more active in postconflict countries, reflected by the fact that in June 2006, the corporation’s board approved a post-conflict initiative for Africa to enhance its presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Last year, IFC invested US$700mn in Africa.

The corporation’s fiscal year ends on June 30.