A €241mn facility extended by the UK export credit agency for the construction of six hospitals in Côte d’Ivoire has been activated after being signed earlier this year.

The deal between UK Export Finance (UKEF) and Côte d’Ivoire’s economy and finance ministry includes a combination of direct lending and buyer credit. It is accompanied by a €52mn loan extended by Japan’s MUFG Bank.

The bank was selected as the preferred lender and mandated lead arranger for the project after a tender process overseen by GKB Ventures, a consultancy firm.

The project involves the design, construction and kitting out of six hospitals in Bouaké, Boundiali, Katiola, Kouto, Minignan and Ouangolodougou, towns mainly located in the country’s north. Training and technical support after the projects are completed is also included in the financing, and the hospitals will use equipment sourced from the UK.

UKEF says the financing is its biggest ever facility in West Africa.

“With the support of UKEF and GKB, we were able to put in place a fully transparent, timely, cost-effective and affordable financing solution that will make this important project a success,” says Jean-Marc Brou, an adviser to the Ivorian prime minister. “The ability of UKEF to provide direct loans was key to securing this deal.”

NMS Infrastructure, a UK-based developer specialising in Sub-Saharan Africa, is building the hospitals. KSK law firm advised the government while Ashurst acted as legal counsel for the lenders.

While the UKEF financing was signed in February, the prerequisites for the loan have been met and the funding is now active, NMS says. Work on the hospitals has begun and is expected to be finished in 2024.

UKEF says in a statement it “has [an] appetite of up to £2bn to support new business in Côte d’Ivoire” and has doubled its capacity in recent years.

Emma Wade-Smith, the UK government’s trade commissioner for West Africa, says the “record-setting” facility “demonstrates the UK government’s strong commitment to supporting sustainable economic growth across the African continent”.

GKB Ventures managing director Ed Harkins says “the highly competitive financing has been delivered in spite of an extremely volatile market”.

“Being able to tap the OECD fixed rate at the lowest end of the curve was particularly important and is one of the lowest rates seen since the introduction of the OECD Commercial Interest Reference Rates in 1993. This provision of UKEF direct lending significantly enhances the affordability of the project for the borrower and provides certainty of funding to our client at a very attractive fixed rate.”

In early July Côte d’Ivoire also inked a €159mn deal with Standard Chartered for the refurbishment of dozens of maternity wards. In that deal, the financing was backed by the export credit agencies of Denmark and Poland.