Finance as a force for good

Funding the construction of the Itare dam in Kenya is momentous not just in terms of the project’s high financial value. Giulia Rhodes discovers it’s a symbol of Intesa Sanpaolo’s long-standing commitment to ethical business.

Giulia Rhodes

11/03/2016

For the people of Nakuru, in Kenya, the Itare dam will be life-changing. After years of water shortages, resulting in hardship and the loss of local industries and jobs, more than 800,000 people will have reliable access to safe, clean water for the first time.

 

The 57m-high structure, 160km from the capital, Nairobi, is being built thanks to a ground-breaking collaboration between Intesa Sanpaolo, the Italian export credit agency, SACE (which is fully guaranteeing the loan) and the construction company Cooperativa Muratori and Cementisti of Ravenna (CMC).

The successful bid for the €241m project was selected from hundreds of international responses to a tendering process launched by the Kenyan government in 2014.

Stefano Stangoni, Intesa Sanpaolo’s global head of financial institutions, says it is momentous not only in terms of its high financial value, but also as a symbol of the bank’s long-standing commitment to ethical and socially-responsible business.

"This is of huge importance to Kenya. It will benefit agriculture and infrastructure, create local employment and expertise, attract further international investment and grow Kenya’s revenue", he says

It is an example, he continues, of the financial industry’s potential as a force for good. “Finance – used correctly – is an instrument for creating work, removing the causes of poverty, reducing conflict and allowing growth.

When we have the vision to interpret our work in this way, along a virtuous path, it is a beautiful job of which I am very proud.”

 

Photo: Stefano Stangoni, Intesa Sanpaolo’s global head of financial institutions.


Crucial to the Italian success in winning the bid was the ability to demonstrate the necessary technical expertise, secure finance and a commitment to undertake the work in a way which would benefit both the Kenyan and Italian economies.

 

Stangoni says that dialogue is vital in order to offer the best “tailor-made and fully-rounded” solutions to clients, wherever they may be. “It is very important to develop a deep understanding of the particular needs and systems of every country, culture and job, to build personal relationships, to respect local expertise and to have a continuous physical presence in the country.”

 

As a bank with expanding international horizons – major hubs in New York, London, Dubai and Hong Kong are connected by corporate branches around the world – Intesa Sanpaolo is in a position to make bold but thoroughly-researched decisions based on a solid awareness of specific risk and compliance challenges.

“We are always looking for new opportunities, because we need to be in the places where there is potential for growth. But we are very careful to understand what type of business we can build in each country. We do not try to do everything everywhere and we monitor situations continuously.”

“We have invested in people, technology and control systems which allow us to be present across all continents” say Stangoni.

As well as creating local employment and sharing “first class know-how and skills” with Kenyan industry, the project will open new doors for a large number of Italian companies involved in both the dam and other projects.

 

Kenya is one of Africa’s healthiest economies, with 5 per cent growth in GDP projected for this year. SACE predicts an average annual growth rate of 4 per cent for Italian exports to Kenya in the period 2015-2019.

“It has to be win-win,”
says Stangoni

“of the opportunities for Italian companies, particularly in the fields of infrastructure, energy, machinery and technology, where, he adds, “the Italian reputation is for excellence”.

 

Internationalisation is crucial to the Italian economy, he states. “In the last few years, in which growth in Italy has been very limited, external growth has been the biggest driver for success. Through export we have been able to contain the reduction of production.”

 

Stangoni is excited about Intesa Sanpaolo’s increasingly international future and its power to boost growth at home and abroad. “Optimism inspires the way we work. I am not excessively idealist – this is about business – but, conducted properly, this work is an incredible vector for growth.”

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