Ground-breaking deal for Beitbridge border 

Source: Ground-breaking deal for Beitbridge border | The Standard

South African lenders including Standard Bank Group and FirstRand have provided $130 million of loans for an upgrade of the Beitbridge border post.

The financing for the Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe includes the $130 million commercial debt tranche arranged by FirstRand’s Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) unit, Standard Bank, Absa Group and Nedbank Group, according to an article paid for by RMB.

It also includes a $65 million development-finance institution tranche from Afreximbank and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube tweeted that the funding showed investors’ confidence in Zimbabwe’s economic prospects.

“A syndicate of banks comprising Rand Merchant Bank, ABSA, Nedbank and Standard Bank availed part of the US$300 million for the redevelopment of Beitbridge border post,” Ncube tweeted yesterday.

“This shows confidence in the Zimbabwe economy, and future growth in regional trade activity.

“Financing for upgrade of Beitbridge border post successfully mobilised through Rand Merchant Bank in South Africa.

“The border post will be completely transformed and become more efficient. A new era is coming.”

RMB said the deal came at a time when infrastructure development and public-private partnerships were more critical than ever to stimulate economic growth.

“As the leading investment bank in the African concessions and PPP sector, we felt confident that we could provide a tailored solution despite the challenges,” RMB said.

“In many ways, this transaction blazed a trail for future deals in the sector.

“We were tasked with finding interested equity investors and lenders within a challenging jurisdiction and at a time of uncertainty in the global economic landscape.”

The bank added: “The structuring was complex and we faced intricate challenges that had to be responded to with agility and innovation.

“Typically, lenders in the African project finance sector have muted appetite for market risk, a challenge that was worsened by a pandemic and the consequent economic crisis.

“In spite of these factors, considered risk analysis and bespoke structuring helped to facilitate this project achieving financial close.”

RMB said the economic impact of the transaction was significant, both to those companies that use the border to trade, and the communities surrounding the border.

“The Beitbridge border post in the busiest border post in Southern Africa, connecting South Africa to Zimbabwe and providing a key access point for trade with countries further to the north,” the bank added.

“This border has been characterised by long waiting periods for trucks, sometimes days, before they go through the border, often travelling hundreds of kilometres to a different border to avoid long queues.

“As a result, the border post lost traffic over time.”

It said the redevelopment of the border post will make it more efficient, leading to increased regional trade, benefiting the Zimbabwe economy and South Africa indirectly.

“Through the concession, the development has a focused socio-economic impact,” RMB added.

“In addition to upgrading the ageing infrastructure at the border post itself, the concession also requires the delivery of social infrastructure to the adjacent town of Beitbridge, including a water treatment plant, housing and a fire station.”

A group of private-equity firms with a concession to operate the border post has said it will invest $300 million on the upgrade.

The Beitbridge crossing was closed for most traffic last month to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

South Africa said it will open its side of the Beitbridge border tomorrow, but Zimbabwe is yet to indicate when it would re-open its land borders after closing them last month after a spike in Covid-19 cases.

On average about 25 000 people pass through Beitbridge daily, according to Zimbabwean officials.

— Bloomberg/Staff Reporter