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The dealmaker

Philippe Le Houérou, CEO of International Finance Corporation, has spent thirty years in leadership positions in development finance but still believes in getting out in the field with staff and clients.
Philippe Le Houérou, CEO of International Finance Corporation (IFC)

IFC’s strategy and business outlook for 2017 - 2019 states that IFC’s operations “rest on client demand”, but you’ve made it clear you want IFC staff to actively seek out opportunities and create new markets. To what extent do you feel DFIs have too long been demand-driven?

That’s a great question. By construct, our investments are demand-driven. We finance private investments. So, to put it simply, if there are no investment projects to start with, we cannot be involved. The question is whether you wait for an investment to come to you so that you can finance it, or whether you create conditions so that there is more investment to start with. We want to do more of the latter. That’s what I mean by creating markets that allow increased levels of investments.

What I think, because I’ve seen it from over 30 years in development, is that you can create an environment where we have more of these opportunities. The beauty of the World Bank Group is that you can go from the macro, or the sector, to the micro, or the corporate, and everything is linked. Over the last few months, we have been funding missions in Guinea, for instance. We have brought investors with us to look at the potential in agribusiness, which we believe is huge. We’ve asked them what are the key issues that need to be solved. That’s what I mean by actually creating markets. In other words, if there is a regulation that doesn’t work, let’s have a discussion with the government. It’s about leaning forward. So yes, by construct, we follow the demand, but I believe the demand for investment is a function of the opportunities, which themselves should be expanded by creating markets.

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