Remarks by DFC CEO Scott Nathan at COA's 2022 Washington Conference on the Americas

CEO Scott Nathan

COA's 2022 Washington Conference on the Americas

May 12, 2022

As prepared for delivery

Good afternoon, everyone — it is a pleasure to be with you today.

Thank you to the Council of the Americas for hosting this year’s conference, and for inviting me.

While I’m sorry that I could not be in person with you this year, I’m glad that I could participate today.

The Western Hemisphere is a priority for the DFC. As the development bank of the United States, many of our most important work streams flow through the Americas.

Take, for example, addressing the climate crisis, where this region is at the forefront of global efforts to find solutions. There is no doubt about the importance of the Amazon Rainforest as a global carbon sink or the wealth of biodiversity across the hemisphere.

This region has acutely felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are proud of our partnership with the Gavi Vaccine Alliance to support vaccine distribution across this region.

Our region also faces an extraordinary infrastructure gap measured in the trillions.

And we face a host of additional challenges, from income inequality to lack of access to basic services and employment.

But along with these challenges comes a huge opportunity: the opportunity to invest in improving people’s lives.

Today, I’d like to spend a few moments sharing more about the DFC, our priorities, and the work we’ve been doing across our hemisphere.

Three years ago, the legislation that created the DFC brought together different teams working on development finance into one agency with more resources and new investment tools to advance development around the world.

DFC uses these investment tools to mobilize the private sector and help close financing gaps for private investment. Above all, we look for commercially viable projects with already identified private sector partners.

To those in the business community in attendance today, we are eager to work with you where our tools can help make the difference in closing the gap.

Some of you may be familiar with our main predecessor agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Over the decades, OPIC made a wide range of investments including those that helped build airports and power plants, expanded access to affordable housing, and provided critical support to smallholder farmers in many countries of the Western Hemisphere.

Congress built the DFC to have an even greater impact by making several improvements.

Our portfolio capacity was more than doubled to $60 billion.

We were given new tools, including the ability to make equity investments and provide grants for technical assistance.

We were granted new authorities, including direction to be more forward leaning on risk and the elimination of the U.S. nexus requirement. These changes increase our flexibility to partner with businesses in countries where we work.

Those changes also made us a better potential partner to development finance institutions and the private sector mobilization arms of multilateral development banks. We can now more readily collaborate on transactions to advance our shared priorities.

We are focused on growing both the quantity and the quality of DFC’s investments in partnership with businesses that have a proven track record in their industry, solid business plans for achieving a significant and sustained impact, and a commitment to adhere to high labor, environmental, and other standards.

To our private sector colleagues in the room, I encourage you to reach out to our team of investment officers if our financing can help you close funding gaps and lock in developmental transactions in this region.

Many of you already have worked with us. DFC has active investments of more than $11 billion across the region. This is the largest share of any region — almost one-third — of our global portfolio.

These projects cut across countries, sectors, and development priorities.

In Brazil, we provided an investment guaranty to a company known as Smart Rio to reduce energy consumption in Rio de Janeiro by installing climate-friendly infrastructure.

We are also partnering with Brazil’s Banco Sofisa to support lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises in economically disadvantaged communities in the Amazon region, a project expected to double Banco Sofisa’s credit portfolio to these communities over the next five years.

In El Salvador, DFC provided financing to rehabilitate the country’s aging water infrastructure.

We have also provided a loan guaranty to El Salvador’s Banco Davivienda to support lending to small and medium sized businesses in high-growth sectors like textiles, plastics, IT, and agricultural processing, with an additional focus on businesses that advance gender equity and businesses that suffered during the pandemic.

Across El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, we partnered with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration to fund financial institution intermediaries lending to micro, small, and medium-sized businesses responding to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Ecuador, we provided financing to Axxis Hospital in Quito to help meet a surge in demand for prenatal and pediatric care. This work will help the hospital add a maternity ward, a pediatric intensive care unit, eighty delivery rooms, and an emergency room for obstetrics and pediatric surgery.

And in Belize, we were integral to the creation of a Blue Bond for marine conservation.

By providing political risk insurance, DFC helped The Nature Conservancy create a fund for conservation of Belize’s barrier reef. The transaction also involved purchasing and restructuring the country’s sovereign debt.

We are excited about the impact of this project, which we believe will benefit both Belize’s marine environment as well as the people whose livelihoods depend on a robust coastal economy.

The list could go on, but these are the kinds of innovative, high-impact projects that we are working on in this region and around the world.

I would like to close by thanking you for the invitation to join you today.

Our commitment to the countries and communities of the Western Hemisphere is strong, but there is a lot more work that we can do.

In the months ahead, my team and I look forward to learning from your perspectives and insights, and, I hope, working together to source high quality, private sector transactions that have development impact.

Thank you again.