Brics bank to boost SA loans by as much as R8bn

The New Development Bank plans to lend as much as R8bn ($600m) more in South Africa this year in an effort to level the playing field among its five member states.

The lender, backed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, started operations in 2015 to support infrastructure projects and sustainable development initiatives in emerging economies. Leaders of the informal Brics club of nations will be gathering in Johannesburg next week for its 10th summit.

"Our aim is to be equitable among our five members,” NDB President KV Kamath said in an interview. “If you look at the $4bn we will be doing this year, we should be lending around $800m" in each nation, he said. "I hope this year, we will hit that number."

The NDB in May announced a $200m loan to Transnet, the state-owned ports and freight operator, to rehabilitate container terminals in Durban on the country’s east coast.

It will ramp up efforts to grow sustainable infrastructure in the continent’s most industrialized economy with two further loans, Kamath said. One of these will go to a bank, which will then in turn lend these funds for use in renewable energy developments, he said, declining to name the institution. The second will be made available to critical infrastructure, Kamath said in the interview on Wednesday, without giving more details.

Currency risk

Separately, the NDB on Thursday activated a $180m loan to Eskom that had been dormant since 2016 and which will be used to build transmission lines and a substation for the Soweto area to integrate renewable-energy projects from independent power producers, Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s Brics ambassador, told reporters in Johannesburg.

The Shanghai-based bank will also begin raising money and lending in South African rand to help insulate its clients from currency risk, Kamath said. It already does this in China.

"It took us a little time to understand how to go about getting projects in South Africa, but I think we are slowly going up that learning curve," he said. The lender last year opened the African Regional Centre to assist in identifying projects in the country it can support.

The ascent of Cyril Ramaphosa to the South African presidency in February, which was followed by sweeping changes to the management at some state-owned enterprises, has improved confidence, Kamath said.

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