Development agencies aid DRC towers purchase

Helios Towers Africa (HTA) has won funding from the development organisations of four European governments in its funding round to help finance the purchase of 950 telecoms towers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The latest loan, of $20 million, comes from the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), which is taking part in a syndicated loan to provide HTA with a total of $105 million, originally announced in mid-July.

HTA said in July that it was buying the towers from Bharti Airtel, to add to its portfolio across Africa, which now totals 6,500 towers.

EAIF is funded by the development organisations of the governments of the UK, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands as well as by private sector banks and development finance organisations. David White, chair of EAIF, said: “Advanced telecommunications are vital to unlocking more of the DRC’s potential. HTA’s investment is an important boost to enterprise and business growth in the country.”

It is managed by Investec Asset Management, one of the largest third party investors in private equity, credit, public equity and sovereign debt across Africa. In May 2016, Investec Asset Management was appointed to manage the $670m fund following a competitive tender process. It has integrated the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund into its African investment platform.

HTA’s CEO, Kash Pandya, said: “Our business model means that telecommunications service providers can focus their capital and management energies on the products and services they offer their customers. Because we own, operate and maintain the infrastructure, the incremental cost to our users of providing services to their customers falls. One of the many beneficial consequences of that is that more remote areas are brought into reach and the cost of services is more affordable in less developed areas.”

In 2015 EAIF’s parent organisation, the Private Infrastructure Development Group, part-financed a project by an HTA subsidiary to acquire, build, own and lease a network of telecoms towers in the neighbouring Congo Brazzaville.

The development agencies that contributed to the DRC loan were the Department for International Development of the UK, Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, SECO, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation of the Netherlands, DGIS.

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