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Sustainability 8 December 2021

Standard Bank drives sustainable growth of Africa’s sugar value chain

Many communities within sub-Saharan Africa rely on sugar not only as a source of calorific energy, but for the employment, industrialisation, and trade opportunities its value chain provides. The sugar industry continues to evolve and investment in supporting infrastructure as well as establishing supportive ecosystems and regulatory frameworks can help improve its global competitiveness and boost yield.

“Sugar is one of the sub-sectors of agriculture with linkages throughout the economy and as Standard Bank, we are supporting the entire value chain with the aim of driving sustainable growth of this industry and that of the wider agriculture ecosystem on the African continent,” says Yinka Sanni, Chief Executive of Standard Bank Africa Regions. “Our strategy remains as follows: Africa is our home, we drive her growth, and the agriculture sector, with its massive social and economic footprint, is key to unlocking this growth.”

AfCFTA set to boost intra-African sugar trade

It is well documented that levels of intra-African trade are low with the continent as a block conducting more trades externally than it does internally. For instance, Intra-African trade stands at less than 20% compared with 59% for Asia and 68% for Europe, this is according to the World Economic Forum.

Sugar manufacturing has historically faced intra-African country barriers, but, as Standard Bank, it is our hope that the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will help foster industrial and trade policies that create a unique opportunity for growth in Africa’s sugar market within the continent.

The implementation of the free trade agreement will hopefully create a leading single market for goods and services that will result in an increase in trade amongst African nations.

ESG investment flows into agriculture create opportunities for sugar players

There has been phenomenal growth in global sustainable finance debt issuance over the last few years with sustainable investment flows growing from $565 billion in 2019 to around $732 billion in 2020. It is expected that come end 2021, global investment flows will exceed a trillion dollars.

“The core of the recent COP-26 debate was that emerging markets haven’t quite woken up to the climate problem yet may face the brunt of negative climate risks,” says Greg Fife, Head of Sustainable Finance for Standard Bank Corporate Investment Banking. As a result, it is expected that over the next decade, there will be significant investment flows going to climate adaption and mitigation through renewable energy and the like.”

We expect to see the availability of green loans in efforts to address climate change adaptation and transition. We continue to encourage smart agriculture with projects involving efficient water usage, waste management renewable energy and appropriate farming practices.

Standard Bank aims to be a key role player as a conduit of sustainable capital in the economy and is well-positioned to structure and arrange sustainable finance for such projects in the sector.

Addressing the energy deficit to enhance productivity of the sugar value chain

From private primary producers to smaller players, agro processors and downstream players, every player across the sugar ecosystem requires access to energy. There is however a massive energy deficit in Africa, which is threatening the productivity of sugar-related businesses who are battling reliability of supply and must contend with the increasing price of electricity, among various other cost pressures.

That said, players in this space are increasingly considering gradually transitioning to alternative sources of energy such as solar PV installations. While there is significant interest in decentralised energy production among various players across the value chain, from small to large, they often face various pain points along the way as electricity is not necessarily their core business. 

In response, Standard Bank introduced PowerPulse for those who are in the market to generate their own power. This is a digitised platform where the generator of energy, the EPC (engineering procurement contractor) or the potential user of energy who wants to build their own plant can register. In that ringfenced environment, Standard Bank will help clients connect to credible suppliers who will assess the business’s energy needs and provide relevant quotes. 

Standard Bank will then assess the quotes from these suppliers and place the information into a consolidated report where the client, who is the user of energy, has an opportunity to make a comparison and a decision on their energy solution. 

“And in the process, with that data available, as a bank, we can also extend funding for the energy solution,” explains Berrie de Jager, Head of Natural Resources for Business and Commercial Clients at Standard Bank. “The savings a business generates through reduced electricity consumption can then be utilised to repay their loan over a medium-term period. Eventually, once that leverage is settled, you have electricity for free, which is the purpose of PowerPulse.”

Growing agricultural value chains, one platform at a time

Standard Bank has become a platform business, launching various digital platforms to connect and provide services across the agricultural ecosystem, such as the bank’s now world renowned OneFarm platform. It also trades the commodities and currencies that enable your transactions in agriculture and related ecosystems, and provides global management payment networks, which facilitate trade in goods and services, with the aim of facilitating growth and development on the African continent.