Natascha Korvinus and Manal Tabet – both investment officers at Proparco – provide further details.
What is the aim of the new CREA Fund facility (Creative Enterprise Action Fund), supported financially by the EU and operationally by Proparco?
Natascha Korvinus (Senior investment officer – Venture Capital) : The creative economy has proven to be a driver and enabler of sustainable development in various emerging markets, but the sector is still one of the more underserved ones in terms of receiving financing. Access to finance is in fact one of the key barriers faced by companies within the creative and cultural industry (CCI).
With the CREA Fund, Proparco aims to boost investments in small CCI companies in predominantly Africa, by providing an attractive guarantee to investment funds that Proparco has invested in, that would cover a part of the potential losses for an investment they make in a CCI company.
Manal Tabet (Investment officer - Technical Assistance & Blending): This guarantee will be complemented by a Technical Assistance (TA) facility which will support all interested Financial Institutions in partnership with Proparco (funds, banks, MFI, etc.) in enhancing their understanding and strategies related to CCI financing. For instance, the facility could help them in securing external expertise to train their teams on the financial specificities of CCIs, to conduct targeted market research to boost their business pipeline or to address targeted points when conducting due diligences.
It will also provide capacity building services for identified prospects or portfolio companies. In this way, we hope to remove some of the obstacles encountered by Proparco's partners when considering financing CCIs.
" The CREA Fund project will facilitate access to financing for approximately 5 to 6 CCI companies, is expected to support between 380 and 456 direct jobs, and would leverage an estimated €22 million of financing into the CCI businesses."
What impacts do you expect from this facility, comprising both a guarantee and a technical assistance component?
Natascha Korvinus: CREA Fund aims to improve access to finance to CCIs in the ACP countries in the African Region and the Caribbean (excluding North Africa, South Africa, and the Pacific). The program should be seen as a pilot of €5 million, which will be available for deal-by-deal guarantees, free of charge, of up to €1.025 million. The CREA Fund project will facilitate access to financing for approximately 5 to 6 CCI companies, is expected to support between 380 and 456 direct jobs, and would leverage an estimated €22 million of financing into the CCI businesses. Overall, the CREA Fund project fits well with the 100% Social Link strategy of the AFD Group.
Manal Tabet: CREA Fund is a pilot project for Proparco. It will promote awareness among financial institutions on this very specific sector. Through an enhance access to finance, it will support the growth of these SMEs which, yes, do have intangible assets and unconventional business models, but still play a key role in terms of social cohesion, dissemination of knowledge and culture, territorial promotion and of course, job creation - especially among women and youth. Around 20 TA missions are foreseen during the course of the programme as well as market studies, information sessions and networking events.
Discover the Press release (15/02/2022)
In 2019, only 1.1% of total investment in African start-ups went into CCIs. How can this difficulty in accessing finance be explained?
Natascha Korvinus: Despite its potential, the sector has is still perceived as lacking success stories in terms of returns and as high risk. Financiers are often reluctant to target the sector, due to the size of the CCIs (mostly SMEs and start-ups), the intangible nature of their assets, and a lack of expertise among financial intermediaries in addressing the sector specificities. Grant programs and state/private backed support initiates exist, but due to the massive infrastructural gap in the sector, there is an additional need for a multifaceted approach in financing. The lack of access to financial innovative instruments makes the functioning and creative production of CCIs in development contexts difficult and in many cases unsustainable.
Manal Tabet: The TA facility is definitely designed to address some of these obstacles – CCI indeed combine the traditional difficulties encountered in SME financing (maturity of the pipeline, costly due diligence, capacity building needs, etc.) with, in addition, a great difficulty, for financiers, to capture the growth potential of these very specific business models. Proposing expertise to develop knowledge and deploy adapted financing strategies is part of the answer.
"The European Union provided Proparco with the opportunity to offer its partners the necessary tools to encourage them in considering investments within this sector."
What is the growth and job creation potential of the cultural and creative industry in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Manal Tabet: The first major global study on this topic has been conducted by UNESCO in 2015: it highlighted the economic potential of the sector, which employed, at the time, almost 29.5 million people and generated revenues of around $2.225 billion worldwide. However, in Africa and the Middle East, the share was estimated at a mere 3% of total revenues ($58 billion) and 8% of the jobs - in a region concentrating over 17% of the world's population. There is obviously a significant potential for growth.
This is backed, between others, by the boom of digital technologies, which have a great impact both on accessing content and in reducing production and distribution costs (streaming, e-commerce, etc.). But this global trend can also be supported, in African, by the demographic growth (youth being the consumers of CCI contents), an observed growing appetite for local or regional cultural content and the emergence, in some countries, of governmental strategies to support the sector.
Natascha Korvinus: To create awareness and promote the importance of the sector on the development agenda, the UN declared the past year to be the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. Examples of successful subsectors in CCI in African countries include Nigerian Film industry, also known as “Nollywood”, a USD 3.3 billion sector, responsible for 1 million indirect jobs.
Last year also marked an increased presence of companies like Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group in the Africa market, while Apple Music expanded from 12 to 37 African countries, and Netflix has started to acquire and support African content creation. In Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana alone, annual growth rates in the entertainment and media industry between 2017-2022 were estimated to be between 11 and 21%.
More broadly, what is Proparco’s strategy for CCIs?
Natascha Korvinus: The CREA Fund falls within the broader offering of the AFD group to support the CCI sector, which also includes also for example the AFD Accès Culture and Afrique Créative initiatives. With the CREA Fund, Proparco is adding a new brick in the continuum of financing for CCIs to encourage private equity funds to look at these often informal, small and early-stage companies, which, with adoption of digital technologies, have however a true potential to scale-up. CCIs also form one of the sub sectors that are eligible to for example the Digital Africa Bridge facility. As such, CREA Fund should be seen as a new step to firm up our offering to the CCI sector.
Manal Tabet: Supporting CCI development is more and more a strategic focus for AFD Group as it is in line with several of its development priorities such as providing support for SMEs, support decent job creation and female employment or promote inclusiveness, innovation and social cohesion. Proparco is fully engaged in this global approach and in creating a continuum of services between the different entities of the AFD group. On the CREA Fund TA component we are, for instance, exchanging closely with the AFD and the Campus teams and planning joint activities.
Why EU support is important?
Manal Tabet: The European Union provided Proparco with the opportunity to offer its partners the necessary tools to encourage them in considering investments within this sector. With its guarantee, it considerably reduces the investments risk. And the TA remains key to lift other potential barriers.