Sierra Leone’s financial sector witnessed a historic moment with the Bank of Sierra Leone approving the country’s first-ever local currency corporate bond on June 12, 2024, as reported by Invest Salone. This milestone paves the way for a more developed capital market in the nation.

United Capital Plc, a prominent pan-African investment banking firm, and Pennarth Greene, a Sierra Leonean corporate finance advisory firm, played a pivotal role in arranging the bond issuance. Support also came from Invest Salone’s PROSPER Salone grant scheme.

The bond, valued at SLE32 million (approximately US$1.4 million), was secured by LAPO Microfinance Company. LAPO, focusing on providing financial services to micro, small, and medium enterprises in Sierra Leone, has a unique characteristic โ€“ 99% of its clients are women. The proceeds from the bond will fuel LAPO’s expansion plans, allowing them to strengthen their loan portfolio and establish new branches.

Eshiague Gabriel, LAPO SL’s Managing Director/CEO, hailed the bond issuance, highlighting its significance as a new, cost-effective funding source, free from foreign exchange risks often associated with foreign debt.

Claudius Bart-Williams, CEO of Pennarth Greene, emphasized the creation of a novel long-term funding channel in Sierra Leone. He commended the transparent process, adhering to international standards, that included a prospectus, credit rating assessment, and a trust deed. He noted the strong interest from both local and international investors, recognizing the LAPO bond as a new asset class and a benchmark for corporate bond yields in the country. Bart-Williams also expressed his appreciation for the Bank of Sierra Leone’s guidance in achieving this milestone.

The Africa Local Currency Bond Fund (ALCB Fund), aiming to develop thematic bond markets in Africa, served as the anchor investor. Brock Hoback, Fund Lead at ALCB Fund, expressed his enthusiasm in supporting this historic transaction. He anticipates the bond to stimulate Sierra Leone’s bond market, ultimately providing women from low-income households with access to affordable loans, promoting financial independence and empowerment.

Invest Salone’s Investment Lead, Christina Clark-Lowes, pointed out the bond’s potential to diversify the domestic capital market, attracting a wider range of investors. She addressed the current challenge of limited access to finance for Sierra Leone’s private sector, with many institutions relying heavily on bank overdrafts due to undercapitalization. Corporate bonds, according to Clark-Lowes, offer an attractive alternative, especially for companies seeking long-term financing. The local currency aspect eliminates the risks associated with foreign exchange fluctuations.

Dr. Gbadebo Adenrele, Managing Director of Investment Banking at United Capital Plc, highlighted the significance of this transaction in establishing a strong corporate bond framework and fostering the growth of Sierra Leone’s capital market. He reaffirmed United Capital’s commitment to strengthening capital markets across Africa by actively participating in such groundbreaking initiatives.

The approval of this landmark bond issuance is anticipated to attract new international investors to Sierra Leone and provide existing investors with new diversification opportunities. This milestone signifies a positive outlook for the country’s economic future.