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Imagine walking several hours a day to fetch clean water instead of going to school or working? That’s everyday life for millions of people around the world. The burdensome chore falls mostly upon women in rural areas, sucking up their time, energy, and well-being.

In Côte d’Ivoire, a new project that involves the construction of 1,378 new water wells in remote, rural areas, along with a network of pipes, pumps and solar panels, will bring drinking water to around one tenth of the country’s 30-million population.

Valued at EUR 200 million, the project is financed by mandated lead arranger KfW IPEX-Bank of Germany and The Swedish Export Credit Corporation (SEK) through a Social Loan with guarantees from EKN and the Dutch ECA Atradius. The borrower is Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Finance, while the buyer is the Ministry of Hydraulics. The project has a total construction period of 4 years and a credit period of 12 years.

From Israel, Baran serves as EPC contractor, with Bluebird Finance acting as financial advisor. “This landmark deal is the pure essence of our work: an export finance deal which will enable clean and accessible drinking water for 3 million people,” says Ram Shalita, CEO at Bluebird, which has arranged EUR 1.7 billion in loans for infrastructure projects in Africa over the past six years.

At EKN, senior underwriter Michael Regmert agrees. “EKN is very proud of being part of the financing solution for this sustainable project, which is in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The pandemic caused delays in finalising the deal but it was worth the wait.”

UN SDG No. 6 focuses on ensuring a clean and stable water supply and effective water sanitation for all people by the year 2030. The goal reflects the fact that many people throughout the world lack these basic services. About 40 percent of the world’s population is affected by a lack of water.

“A fantastic project”

Per Edlundh, Director, export and project finance at SEK calls the effort to bring water to remote rural communities in Côte d’Ivoire a fantastic project. “In order to get the project fully financed, a commercial down payment facility is provided by the lenders and SEK will for the first time take on Côte d’Ivoire risk,” he tells GTR. “I believe this structure may successfully be used in future deals in the region.”

The Swedish components of the deal are managed by business facilitator Elof Hansson International, where President Björn Olausson says, “This project fits our ambition to deliver sustainable projects very well.” Also from Sweden, Serneke International Group acts as key subcontractor and construction supervisor. CEO Prashant Agarwal believes the project will have a “massive social impact” on local society and points out the important equality aspects: “The burden of fetching water every day usually falls on women, and takes time away from education or paid work. It’s a game changer in terms of equality and will greatly improve the prospects of girls and women.”

Another sustainability aspect with the project is that solar panels are used in wells to provide electricity for the pumping mechanism, thus reducing the physical labour of water collection even further. “The water is just a click away,” says Agarwal.

Jan Glaser, responsible project manager at KfW IPEX-Bank, is sure that the joint effort for the EUR 200 million investment is paying off twice. “The new facilities financed by SEK and KfW IPEX-Bank will improve the lives of about 10 per cent of the total population by improving their drinking water supply. At the same time, we support Swedish and Dutch exporters who supply essential components for the wells.”

The long-term commitment of all project partners promises to further add to the sustainability of the project. At Bluebird Finance, Shalita says: “We will continue to work hard during the coming years to make sure that the project complies with relevant ESG and Operations & Maintenance requirements, securing that the project remains in operation for many years to come.”