Nigeria, SA Lead as Development Banks Attract Strong Interest Again

Nigeria, SA Lead as Development Banks Attract Strong Interest Again

With eight development banks in Nigeria, and increasing establishments of the same in other countries like South Africa (SA), Morocco and others, Fitch said sustainability will be the next challenge for these state-owned banks.

National Development Banks (NDBs) attract interest across the Africa continent, Fitch Ratings says in a new report, noting that the structure has been receiving increasing interest from market participants in recent years.

In the quest to supporting domestic economic growth and business development, African countries created national development banks to financing small and medium scale enterprises.

NDBs, which state-owned banks, operate with the sole mandate of financing sectors and borrowers that are typically avoided by commercial banks.

According to Fitch Ratings, these policy banks have long been neglected due to weak execution, poor governance standards and questionable lending practices.

With the challenges of financing more ambitious state-led development objectives, some of them driven by the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), development lenders and policymakers are pushing African NDBs to play a larger and more impactful policy role.

With development agenda, the Ratings said several African governments have revived their NDBs, as they recognised these banks’ potential as additional sources of finance and expertise in facilitating development goals.

“African NDBs are small, representing only 1% of NDBs’ global total assets, which significantly constrains their development impact”, it added.

However, Fitch Ratings thinks these banks can make an important contribution to the financing of the SDGs, in channeling concessional funding to critical projects and in mobilising private-sector investments.

But financial support from their sovereign owners will remain crucial, in addition to providing capital and long-term funding, just as governments’ efforts to transform their NDBs and improve their financial sustainability will be critical to their success.

Fitch rated African NDBs are equalized with the sovereign, reflecting high support propensity given the banks’ policy roles, their state ownership and their high share of sovereign-guaranteed funding.

Compare with other African countries, Fitch stated that Nigeria has the largest number of individual development banks with eight NDBs.

BOI and Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) are the two largest NDBs in the country, Fitch said, adding that both entities have total assets of USD3.4 billion and USD1.5 billion at end-2019, respectively.

The two banks have fairly similar mandates to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and larger corporates, directly or through on-lending to commercial banks.

“We believe there is sufficient room for both banks to co-exist given Nigeria’s significant development financing gap and the low level of bank credit to private sector/GDP of 20%”, Fitch said.

Nigeria’s other NDBs operate with narrower mandates and have limited lending capacity, with total assets below USD500 million.

Financial Sustainability the Next Challenge

The report noted that Some African NDBs have grown rapidly in the past five years with their revival, as experts said becoming financially sustainable is these NDBs next big challenge, especially as they are more exposed to investor sentiment and scrutiny than ever.

Fitch assessed the National Development Banks in South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Namibia, Botswana, Rwanda and Uganda, saying the leading African NDBs can play a key financing role in supporting the SDGs.

Especially, by mobilising concessional funding from large international development lenders and domestic private-sector investments.

“These banks will have to secure substantially more funding from non-sovereign sources to pursue rapid growth, which will put them under heightened scrutiny”, it added.

Fitch said financial sustainability is the next big challenge, requiring improved internal capital generation and diversification of cost-effective funding to achieve the business transformation strategies pursued in recent years.

“African governments and policymakers are pushing National Development Banks (NDBs) to play a greater policy role in the financing of the UN’s ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.

Sovereign support remains a key rating consideration for African NDBs; however, achieving financial sustainability is critical to playing a more substantial role, Fitch Ratings said in the report.

The report noted that in Africa, these banks have long suffered from ineffective business models, weak asset quality, poor corporate governance and negative perceptions from market participants.

“These NDBs have received more sovereign support due to a change in political climate over the past decade, with many governments returning to state-led development policies and with development objectives more closely aligned with the implementation of the SDGs’ agenda”, the agency added.

More recently, several African NDBs were created or revived by governments, which recognised these banks’ potential as additional sources of financing and expertise in facilitating development goals.

Fitch rates the following four African NDBs, with ratings and outlooks aligned with respective sovereigns, reflecting high support propensity: Bank of Industry (Nigeria, B/ Stable), Development Bank of Namibia (BB/ Negative), Uganda Development Bank (B+/ Negative) and Development Bank of Rwanda (B+/ Stable).

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Nigeria, SA Lead as Development Banks Attract Strong Interest Again