Trade Catalyst Africa (TCA), an investment vehicle owned by not-for-profit organisation Trademark Africa, has hired its first chief executive as it aims to drive support for trade facilitation and finance across the continent.

Duncan Onyango, who has over two decades of management experience, joins TCA from Pharo Ventures East Africa, a branch of the Pharo Foundation, which implements development projects in Africa.

Previously, Onyango worked in the donor, development finance, private and public sectors, and has expertise serving on the boards of organisations such as the Kenya Innovative Finance Facility for Water and the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund.

TCA is responsible for mobilising “innovative financing structures for the development of trade infrastructure and enhancing access to trade finance for SMEs”, says Trademark Africa (formerly Trademark East Africa).

According to TCA, its aim is to de-risk commercial investments in trade projects and trade infrastructure in particular, including digital cross-border trade platforms and access to trade finance for the agribusiness and cotton, textiles and garments value chains.

USAID provided an initial funding injection of US$25mn, which TCA says it will leverage to raise additional capital from development finance institutions, commercial banks, private equity funds, microfinance institutions and fintechs.

Noting Trademark Africa’s role in reducing the time and costs associated with cross-border business in Africa, the organisation’s chief executive David Beer says: “We are now looking at how to scale up these investments, leveraging high quality patient capital and more commercial approaches to deliver another scale of results. It is for this reason that we established TCA.”

TCA board chair Patrick Obath says that Onyango “brings to this role a wealth of experience in infrastructure finance, impact investing, trade facilitation as well as corporate and development finance”.

“This is a pivotal moment for intra-Africa trade as we seek to position TCA as a key mobiliser of commercial funding to roll out investments in trade infrastructure projects as well as financing for micro, small and medium enterprises in Africa,” says Onyango.

Earlier this year, Trademark Africa and TCA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tony Blair Institute, an organisation that advises governments worldwide on strategy and policy, to help remove trade barriers across the continent and drive the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).