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Access Bank and BII Collaborate to Expand Services Across Five African Nations

British International Investment (BII), the UK’s Development Finance Institution (DFI) and impact investor has announced a $60 million trade finance facility for Access Bank Plc in Nigeria and five of its pan-African subsidiaries.

This will strengthen import and export capabilities amongst local businesses and plug the foreign currency supply gap. The program supports Access Bank’s strategy to enable continental trade and deepens BII’s commitment to bolstering financing environments in fragile economies. BII estimates the loan programme will stimulate African trade volumes by US$90 million.

The agreement reinforces BII’s ongoing relationship with Nigeria’s largest commercial bank by assets and facilitates the provision of systemic liquidity during a period characterised by a challenging macroeconomic environment. Higher inflation and rising cost of capital have placed downward pressure on currency performance, both domestically and in the programme’s target markets of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. Intervention at this critical juncture underlines the key role of BII, and development finance institutions in general, in extending countercyclical support to build economic resilience.

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Between 80% and 90% of world trade is estimated to rely on the availability of trade credit, according to the World Trade Organization. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, that financing gap stood at US$82 billion in Africa, and it is increasing. Recognising the positive ripple effects of robust trade flows on economies and livelihoods, Access Bank is aiming to provide 15% of trade finance across Africa, by growing the trade books of its subsidiaries.

Currency instability in Nigeria can hinder the wider proliferation of dollar-denominated trade loans across African markets, constraining countries’ ability to capitalise on opportunities opening up under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. By specifically targeting import-dependent economies – many of which will mark the first engagement with BII’s Trade programme – the improved availability of US dollar-denominated trade loans will ensure availability of key commodities and manufacturing inputs for the production and export of goods. The key outcome will be improving livelihoods and preserving jobs for the employees of importers and exporters with limited access to foreign exchange trade loans.

With the loans channelled into companies in construction, manufacturing and FMCG, the programme will directly contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 8 (Decent work and economic growth) and 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure).

Simultaneously, the facility will improve inclusion. Qualifying under the 2X Challenge, aimed at strengthening female participation and leadership in business, Access Bank will ensure the allocation of loans is designed deliberately to advance its gender commitments. In addition, the facility will contribute to BII’s BOLD programme, dedicated to enhancing the availability of finance at more affordable rates to Black, African-owned businesses.

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