Standard Bank Group Ltd. has allocated ZAR 10 billion ($751 million) to fund energy projects in South Africa as the continent’s largest lender by assets grows more confident in its home market and invests in riskier ventures.
“We are exceedingly optimistic about the future of this country, more so now than in December,” Lungisa Fuzile, the Johannesburg-based lender’s South African head, said at a panel discussion in the city late Tuesday.
That was the month Cyril Ramaphosa was elected head of the ruling African National Congress, enabling him to replace Jacob Zuma as president in February. He’s since begun a campaign to lure $100 billion in investment over the next five years as he seeks to boost a flagging economy.
Ramaphosa’s government has moved to revive a renewable energy industry that had become caught up in lengthy project delays under Zuma’s administration. Energy Minister Jeff Radebe signed agreements with 27 independent power producers in April and said last month that bidders would be invited later this year for projects that could amount to investment of as much as ZAR 50 billion.
After a meeting between Ramaphosa and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Pretoria earlier on Tuesday, a framework agreement of $3 billion on financing and insurance cooperation between China Export and Credit Insurance Corp. and Standard Bank was announced. China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner.
In the face of growing protectionism globally, South Africa needs to focus on being more competitive rather than fixating on external factors, Fuzile said.
Standard Bank shares traded 1.5 percent higher at ZAR 201.03 as of 10:11 a.m. in Johannesburg, compared with a 0.9 percent fall on the FTSE/JSE Africa Banks Index.