DBSA acts directly

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The ongoing pandemic has impacted our economy and society, changing the course of our daily lives and the ways in which we earn our living. The situation calls for the private and public sectors to work together more than before. It has further triggered an urgent need for short-term relief interventions and ways to stimulate long-term economic growth — all while we come to understand Covid-19’s context among other pressing issues that affect the population, such as gender-based violence and HIV. The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) has adopted a multi-sectoral approach during these trying times, an approach in which holistic, decisive action is taken where it’s needed most.

As an institution, the DBSA has committed R150-million to a variety of impactful Covid-19 relief projects — these include an intervention to support government in increasing its testing capacity, development of non-invasive ventilators, provision of isolation pods to increase the number of available hospital beds, provision of prefabricated screening units, support of various municipality water projects as well as providing support with personal protective equipment (PPE) to the South Africa district municipalities and SADC region.

Already, R2.4-million worth of PPE for frontline medical staff has been delivered to the Department of Health in partnership with the German Development Finance Institution, KfW. “We are providing this support … to bolster national and local governments’ capacity to manage the pandemic, save lives and help ensure that the South African and SADC economies recover from the impact of Covid-19 pandemic,” said Patrick Dlamini, DBSA’s Chief Executive Officer.

To unpack the initiatives associated to the R150-millon allocation, the DBSA prioritised support to the National Disaster Management Centre, to enable its continued work of monitoring and mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Then part of the allocation went into funding the provision of prefabricated screening and testing units in 25 district municipalities across seven provinces (Gauteng, Eastern Cape, North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga). The units are accompanied by PPE to benefit the frontline staff allocated to do screening and testing in these units.

Regarding the need for increased testing capacity, the DBSA entered into a partnership with Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to acquire PCR testing machines and their associated reagents. The DBSA also used part of the funding towards a partnership with the CSIR, to boost South Africa’s capacity to produce non-invasive ventilators needed in public hospitals in South Africa and the region as a whole. Isolation pods were provided with medical beds and distributed to stressed health facilities.


A focus has remained on ensuring access to water by vulnerable communities within the various local government jurisdictions. The projects in progress include the drilling of boreholes to provide water and creating ways to power these boreholes where there is no electricity.

It is the DBSA’s belief that these interventions will go a long way towards cushioning the impact of the pandemic on the lives and dignity of Southern African communities. The partners and beneficiaries of these interventions have expressed their gratitude to the DBSA for these interventions and they are making the implementation of the earmarked projects more inclusive and collaborative.  

In addition to interventions focused on addressing the diagnostic, testing and isolation needs, the DBSA has embarked on productivity-inducing initiatives that maintain the institution’s focus on sustainable infrastructure projects with long-term economic growth potential and that are critical to facilitate economic recovery.

“Our approach is integrated and multi-sectoral in nature and therefore, we’ve been able to find alignment with other public and private role players to ensure that these Covid-19 initiatives are a success,” said Chuene Ramphele, Group Executive of Infrastructure Delivery and currently leading the Covid-19 interventions programme.  

DBSA’s unique role as both a facilitator and enabler has proved useful in providing an integrated and multi-sectoral approach during this crisis. This is a period during which the bank has prioritised innovating and bringing new thinking to their ways of doing business. Covid-19 has catalysed new behaviours across industries that have unlocked new uses of technology that can be introduced into the development space. There’s hope that these unforeseen circumstances may result in leap-frogging “normal” ways of doing business, scaling up and broadening development impact. Covid-19 has produced challenges, but for the bank, it’s produced opportunities to do business differently.

Cushioning climate change

During this pandemic, DBSA has maintained its commitment to funding energy and environment-focused projects that battle the other crisis at hand: climate change. It believes and understands that future development must take place in a manner that is both climate-resilient and sustainable. The bank has adopted a Climate Policy Framework, in which it commits to align 30% of its financial flows to low-carbon and green financing. The DBSA is an accredited entity for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and has created the Embedded Generation Investment Programme, which supports embedded generation renewable energy projects, and for which it has received approximately R4-billion in funding in the form of loans and equity.

These future-looking, growth-inducing initiatives also meeting the objectives of the bank, such as the development of infrastructure that will aid South Africa in its transition to a just and equitable society. Dlamini said: “While it is still unclear what the final, full impact of the pandemic will be, we believe that it is only through our collective efforts and our partnerships that we will be truly able to build a clear pathway towards a renewed and inclusive economy and society.”

For more information, visit www.dbsa.org

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James Nash
James Nash is a freelance writer and photographer born in Cape Town and raised in New York. He’s written on literature, tech, fashion, music and more for The Way of Us, GQ, Glamour and The Mail & Guardian.

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