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French state lender looks to double lending in Africa

ABIDJAN, June 2 (Reuters) - French public investment bank Bpifrance plans to more than double its annual lending in Africa over the next three years, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

Bpifrance, which manages French state shareholdings, has extended more than 700 million euros since 2015 in export credits to help African governments and businesses buy French products, Pedro Novo, the bank’s executive director in charge of exports, said during an interview in Ivory Coast.

“We have decided to double the rhythm of these investments over the next three years,” Novo said. “Combining this with what we make available to French businesses that are created or invest in companies in Africa, we expect to make 1.5 billion euros in new investments for Africa.”

Novo said a particular focus for investments would be Ivory Coast, a former French colony which is the world’s top cocoa producer and has one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

To that end, the bank has held talks with Ivory Coast’s prime minister to launch a financial institution that would provide credit to entrepreneurs and small businesses, he said. ($1 = 0.8189 euros) (Reporting by Ange Aboa; Editing by Aaron Ross and Cynthia Osterman)

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