Q1) What is IFC's role in smart cities today? In the 21st century, cities are critical to economic growth and poverty reduction across the world. About 80 percent of global GDP is generated by cities and 70 percent of the population in emerging markets is expected to live in cities by 2050. Therefore, cities are key to IFC’s mission of promoting economic growth and development through the private sector. IFC, which is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, works with cities to develop smart and efficient infrastructure projects throughout the entire project cycle: advising on optimal technologies, bringing in private sector expertise, and financing and designing optimal financing solutions.
Q2) What are the main priorities for IFC in urban development and the key challenges and objectives? IFC is scaling up its financial and advisory services offerings to help cities become more competitive by strengthening their institutions, improving critical infrastructure and climate resilience, fostering skills and innovation, and expanding access to finance. IFC plays a unique role in matching clients with markets, providing capacity support, and structuring innovative financing models and PPPs for municipalities, utilities, and private sector service providers. We aim to partner with cities and help them identify and develop optimal projects from a technical, economic, and business model perspective, tailoring our investment and advisory solutions to meet the particular needs of a city.
Q3) What type of projects is IFC focusing on? To help cities become more competitive and improve the reach and efficiency of key infrastructure, IFC has invested $6.8 billion in 221 city-related projects and provided advisory services through an additional 164 projects to 87 cities in over 60 countries in the past 10 years. Such projects include, for example, developing an intelligent mass transit system in Bogota, Colombia; expanding the metro system in Istanbul, Turkey; upgrading district heating networks in Romania to make them more efficient; upgrading to more efficient street lighting in Orissa, India; and credit enhancement of municipal Bonds in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Q4) How do you help cites develop and finance bankable infrastructure projects? IFC can help cities identify their most promising projects and apply international best practices in developing these projects. We have deep expertise across various sectors and our industry and environmental and social specialists will support projects as part of our engagement to ensure that the projects are up to international standards and bankable. In addition, we have dedicated advisory offerings to help identify technical solutions to further improve the efficiency and productivity of the projects. We can then help determine the best business models and financing approaches, including for example direct sub-national financing, PPP structures to bring in the private sector or bond issuance. We can also directly finance private service providers in cities, such as a power distribution company.
Q5) How do Public-Private-Partnerships operate within the intelligent city framework? PPPs are an important component in the toolkit for any mayor who hopes to make his or her city more efficient and competitive. By structuring projects in such a way as to optimally allocate risks and rewards between the public and the private sector, PPPs help to attract private expertise, resources and investment to priority projects in a city. Therefore, they can help cities to implement a greater number of projects than they could otherwise finance. Moreover, by leveraging the expertise of the private sector, projects can often be implemented in a more efficient manner.
Q6) How can cities and project developers attract greater interest from institutional investors and investment banks? IFC can help cities attract financing from other commercial investors, for example through syndications. For large projects that require a lot of finance, we can attract co-lenders to finance projects alongside IFC, leveraging IFC’s due diligence process and close contacts with commercial banks and institutional investors globally.
Q7) And finally you will be delivering a speech at 3rd Annual Intelligent Cities Summit in Istanbul on 11 December. Would you like to send a message to participants? IFC is truly committed to smart cities’ development and I look forward to the event. I hope to discuss with many representatives of cities and businesses the myriad ways IFC can support their projects.