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Chief Executive Officer of DFC visits Africell Sierra Leone

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Scott Nathan identifies Africell as a “success story” in DFC’s strategy to finance private

sector organisations driving economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa

Image: Scott Nathan, right, CEO of DFC, spends time with Africell, a recipient of DFC funding, during an official visit to Sierra Leone

During an official visit to Freetown, Sierra Leone, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s CEO Scott Nathan discussed the importance of telecommunications to West Africa’s economic growth and highlighted Africell’s work to reduce the “digital divide” in Sierra Leone and the wider region.

A recipient of over a hundred million dollars of DFC financing, Africell hosted Mr. Nathan during his trip, showing him and his delegation facilities including a state-of-the-art new data centre which, when completed, will be the first in Sierra Leone built exclusively with trusted western technologies.

DFC partners with the private sector to finance solutions to critical challenges facing the developing world. When Africell secured financing from the DFC in 2019, it was the first and only mobile operator in Africa to have done so. Today, Africell continues to set an example for other US private sector businesses seeking to invest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr. Nathan’s visit to Sierra Leone involved meetings with Africell and other projects promising to spur both economic growth and development impact in the country. In an interview with AfriRadio, Mr. Nathan outlined DFC’s objectives and explained why the institution’s partnership with Africell is delivering benefits in Sierra Leone and beyond.

Image: the DFC delegation visited the state-of-the-art Africell data centre being constructed in Freetown

Interviewer: What role can telecommunications play in West Africa’s development?

Scott Nathan: All around the world, including in West Africa, telecommunications is vital for closing the “digital divide”. Having reliable access to the internet is key to economic growth in the twenty-first century. Telecommunications is a critical piece of economic infrastructure and to have a company like Africell pushing it in Sierra Leone, while also being socially responsible and playing an important role in the community, is very valuable.

Q: What are DFC’s objectives?

SN: The US Government wants development impact to align with economic growth. The DFC helps achieve this through initiatives in healthcare, climate-friendly energy solutions, digital technologies, and more. We are always looking to add our financial support to elements of the economy that boost economic growth. Economic growth leads to opportunity, employment and stability, all of which are in everyone’s interests.

Q: What can Sierra Leone expect to gain from the involvement of the DFC?

SN: We want the economy to grow and for Sierra Leoneans to have more jobs and opportunities. That’s really what its all about for us. We prioritise private sector partners because we believe that unleashing the private sector will attract even more private capital, which is the most sustainable model for growth. The DFC focuses on opportunities where there is a financing gap: situations where our involvement can provide a unique boost to private sector companies, entrepreneurs and those advancing financial inclusion. We are pleased to be in Sierra Leone to support Africell and other projects, and we will continue to explore opportunities to support economic growth here.

Q: What are your takeaways from this visit?

SN: I’m impressed. Africell has an incredible team. They are extremely innovative and they have a plan. It is incredibly gratifying to see such a success story and I’m really pleased that US government and DFC can be a part of the story through our financing relationship.

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