• This European Union-backed partnership aims to strengthen mesofinance organisation COFINA Group’s support for agricultural value chains, including cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire.
  • 24 agricultural cooperatives (including 22 in the cocoa sector) are already benefiting from this partnership, and around 6 000 jobs in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-caps will be supported with funding from COFINA Group.
  • This agreement includes ambitious targets on climate action, environmental sustainability and financial inclusion, especially for women. It is part of Team Europe initiatives for sustainable development and the low-carbon transition, together with Global Gateway programmes on sustainable food system development and forest conservation.

In September 2023, the European Investment Bank (EIB) — via its development arm, EIB Global — and COFINA Group finalised a €25 million (XOF 16.5 billion) financial partnership to strengthen support for the private sector and agricultural value chains, including €16 million in Côte d'Ivoire (XOF 10.5 billion), with the backing of the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+).

On 2 May 2024, COFINA-CI and EIB Global announced that 24 loans have already been granted by COFINA-CI to EIB-eligible agricultural cooperatives, including 22 in the cocoa sector. Loans currently total €2.1 million (XOF 1.4 billion). This announcement shows the progress made on this financial partnership since signature seven months ago.

EU Delegation-financed technical assistance will help COFINA and its customers, particularly cocoa cooperatives, to account for future EU environmental and social requirements for cocoa exported to the European Union.

EIB and COFINA — a high-impact financial partnership

COFINA-CI is the main subsidiary of the west and central African Compagnie Financière Africaine (COFINA) financial group, which began operating in 2014 and aims to improve SME access to finance with mesofinance — the halfway point between traditional banking and microfinance. Its goal is to provide local services to private entrepreneurs and SMEs excluded from traditional financial networks.

With EU support, in 2023 the EIB and COFINA-CI signed a €16.1 million (XOF 10.5 billion) credit line to provide financing to SMEs and mid-caps in the agricultural value chain in Côte d’Ivoire, with a positive impact on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment as well as on climate action and environmental sustainability.

The project aims to support private agricultural sector development and make it easier for agri-food SMEs and small producers to access markets and finance.

COFINA-CI is rolling out the EIB loan between 2023 and 2025, focusing at least 70% of the funds on agricultural value chains, particularly the cocoa sector, which is among the European Union’s priorities in Côte d'Ivoire. This sector priority goes hand in hand with two cross-cutting priorities: 30% of the loans will support women’s entrepreneurship and the employment of women, and 30% will finance green investment.

The focus on the cocoa sector is in line with the development of EU regulations aiming to combat deforestation caused by products exported to EU Member States. These new rules — soon to enter into force — require cocoa to be produced sustainably, with expanded checks to confirm no deforestation or child labour has been involved. This means that changes to the sector must take place more quickly, and traceability and certification systems must be put in place to determine the origin of products at each marketing channel level. Without all this, cocoa exports to the European Union could be banned.

By strengthening the agricultural sector, this financing will contribute to food security, reduced dependency on imports and overall economic stability in Côte d’Ivoire, while promoting environmentally friendly farming practices, the use of modern technologies and job creation in rural areas.

This partnership will also enable COFINA Group to expand its financing of companies that empower women as entrepreneurs, managers, employees and consumers of products and services, increasing their participation in the economy in line with the 2X Challenge initiative, the criteria of which are aligned with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s gender objectives.

EIB and COFINA — a strong technical partnership

As requirements for cocoa exports to the European Union become stricter, COFINA-CI will receive technical assistance to help it develop and monitor cocoa value chain financing operations tailored to the loan conditions, in particular to support SMEs and cooperatives. It will enable COFINA to strengthen its ability to better serve cocoa value chain players, while aligning its procedures with the EIB’s social and environmental requirements. It will also help COFINA and its customers — particularly cocoa cooperatives — to take future EU environmental and social requirements for cocoa exported to EU Member States into account.

This EIB-COFINA Group partnership is part of the European Union’s external action and the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). It will help implement the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the EU Sub-Saharan Africa, Multi-annual Indicative Programme 2021-2027, which backs stronger regional and continental economic integration via inclusive and job-creating economic growth.

It is one of the first operations to be carried out under the new 2023-2027 agreement between the European Commission and the EIB for private sector financing in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

“This partnership with the EIB is an opportunity for our pan-African mesofinance institution to actively support small and medium-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as the cocoa value chain. As our goal is to create added value for our partners and to make a sustainable contribution to the development of the African continent, we are determined to offer inclusive financial solutions promoting the empowerment of farmers and particularly women entrepreneurs, thereby contributing to the economic success of our country, where agriculture plays a key role,” said COFINA Côte d’Ivoire CEO Sié Amed Touré.

“I am happy that the EIB is backing such an important project for the development of agricultural value chains, including sustainable cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire. By providing financial and technical support for this project, the EIB is demonstrating its commitment to developing a major strategic vision to benefit local people. However, our commitment to Africa goes far beyond this project via EIB Global, our development arm. Our aim is to support the EU Global Gateway initiative and key sectors for African countries, such as health, the digital economy, renewable energy, agriculture and urban development, including water and transport,” added EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle.

“Backing this partnership between the EIB and COFINA-CI is very important for the European Union. On the one hand, it shows Team Europe’s commitment to support Côte d’Ivoire’s transition to sustainable agriculture, and on the other, our determination to contribute to the financial inclusion of agri-food SMEs and small producers excluded from traditional financial networks, with a specific focus on women. By specifically targeting the cocoa sector, this project will also help ensure the alignment of the country’s cocoa production with new EU regulations aiming to combat deforestation. A key pillar of the Global Gateway strategy, supporting sustainable investments will enable many players to contribute to the development of an inclusive, low-carbon economy. I am delighted to see this partnership take shape with the common goal of sustainability and inclusiveness,” said EU Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire Francesca di Mauro.

Background information

About the European Investment Bank

The EIB is the lending institution of the European Union, owned by its Member States. It provides long-term financing for sound investment projects to achieve EU policy objectives.

The EIB has been a strong partner for African countries for more than 55 years. Through EIB Global, the Bank is strengthening its presence in Africa. Over the past decade, the EIB has provided more than €28 billion for investment in innovative technologies, green energy, water, education, agriculture, telecommunications, healthcare and businesses in 40 countries across the continent. Since 2019-2020 and the start of the pandemic alone, the EIB has provided more than €8.5 billion for new private and public investments across Africa.

EIB Global is the EIB Group's specialised arm devoted to increasing the impact of international partnerships and development finance. It is designed to foster a strong, focused partnership within Team Europe, alongside fellow development finance institutions and civil society. EIB Global brings the EIB Group closer to local people, companies and institutions through our offices around the world.

Website: www.eib.org




COFINA Group is a pan-African financial group that began operating in 2014 via microfinance institutions in eight countries: Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Congo, Gabon, Senegal and Togo.

COFINA Group was created to make it easier for SMEs to access finance via mesofinance, the missing link standing at the halfway point between traditional banking and microfinance. The goal is to provide local services to private entrepreneurs and SMEs excluded from traditional financial networks. By providing its customers with micro-loans, micro-insurance and bancassurance products, mobile banking and e-banking products, social housing financing and structured financing that functions in line with international standards, COFINA Group supports entrepreneurs or SMEs whose financing needs have become too great for microfinance institutions. In just a few years, COFINA has developed a well-known brand in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire and has become a recognised player positioned between the microfinance and banking sectors.

About the European Union’s priorities in Côte d'Ivoire

Launched at the end of 2021, the Global Gateway strategy is a European Commission initiative for the sustainable development of emerging partner countries in the fields of digital, energy and transport; and for improving health, education and research systems around the world.

With the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, also known as Global Europe, Team Europe — the European Union, its Member States (including their implementing agencies and public development banks) and the EIB — are mobilising the private sector to promote local added value, sustainable growth and job creation. In identifying, co-financing and carrying out concrete projects, the private sector plays a key role in operationalising this strategy on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.