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Online platform will aim to speed up African transactions

A new technology platform to be launched next year by the African Development Bank and Silicon Valley’s Zanbato Group is aiming to promote African infrastructure asset sales and capital raisings.

Amid all the hype surrounding the G-20 meeting in Cannes, France last week, came an endorsement which may not have made many headlines but could have a material effect on the further development of Africa’s infrastructure.

The Sokoni Africa Infrastructure Marketplace, which received a recommendation from the G-20’s High Level Panel on Infrastructure, will provide a marketplace for buyers and sellers of African infrastructure investment opportunities. The initiative has resulted from a partnership between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and US technology platform Zanbato Group.

The technology platform, scheduled for launch in 2012, will feature a database of public, private and public-private partnership (PPP) projects, enabling connections to be made between project sponsors, capital providers and advisers globally.

In 2006, it was estimated that the gap between infrastructure spending and infrastructure need in Africa was some $48 billion.

“The African Development Bank has financed more than 150 infrastructure projects over the last five years alone,” said Bobby Pittman, vice president for infrastructure and private sector development at the AfDB. “Sokoni now gives us an even more systematic way of promoting and sharing these opportunities with other donors and global investors.”

Ryan Orr, co-chairman and chief executive of Zanbato Group, said the marketplace would help ensure that projects are seen by the right people. “Right now there are a lot of sponsors with projects that are critical for economic development, that are not getting funded. That’s because they’re not getting in front of the right eyes, they’re too small to get real attention, or they’re not being presented effectively.”

As well getting the nod of approval from the G-20, Google has also come out in support. Rick Needham, director of green business operations at the US technology giant, stated: “We view Africa as an important market and look forward to investing in its future. A digital platform that allows us to learn about infrastructure investment opportunities would be great for us and others as we try to more quickly and efficiently identify those opportunities.”

Zanbato was launched in August 2010 by Orr, a professor of global project finance and infrastructure investment at Stanford University. The Mountain View, California-based firm aims to bring together buyers and sellers of infrastructure and other alternative assets. It allows owners of infrastructure to post profiles of their assets and fund interests to see if anyone is interested in buying them.