Martha Stein Sochas: French Development Agency Regional Head, South Africa

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Martha-Stein-Sochas-AFD

Tell us about yourself

I joined the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) in 1991, but I arrived in South Africa in September 2014 to take up the position of Regional Director for South Africa in Johannesburg, covering nine additional countries: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

I have an extensive background working with both the public and private sectors throughout my career with the Agency. During my time with AFD I have also worked at Proparco. I served as Proparco’s Regional Director for East Africa (1999-2002) based in Nairobi, Kenya; Deputy Director for the Africa Department (2007-2008); and as Director for Asia (2008-2011).

I’m a dual national (American and French), and began my career as a teacher for the American Peace Corps in Oyem, Gabon. I have a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies (SAIS) and a Bachelor’s degree from Lewis and Clark College.

Tell us more about AFD

AFD is the French Development Agency and Development Bank. We finance projects that promote sustainable development. AFD is based in Paris and Marseille, and has offices in over seventy countries.

The AFD Group is comprised of a private sector financing arm, Proparco, which finances private sector initiatives that focus on sustainable development. The French Global Environment Facility (French GEF) finances pilot projects that reconcile environment and development.

AFD carries out its mandate through its financing, risk analysis, hedging instruments, and expertise in training and capacity building, which it provides to both public and private stakeholders.

AFD-Construction

What are some of the major projects you’ve financed in South Africa?

AFD has worked extensively with the City of Johannesburg on projects related to affordable housing and spatial transformation along transport corridors (the Rea Vaya corridors). We work in the renewable energy sector, financing projects using a variety of renewable energies (wind, solar, biomass) through local banks. Also, AFD supports research with Wits University (urban development), and UCT (social cohesion and inequality), for example.

AFD-Solar

Who do you typically finance?

Our private sector financing arm, Proparco, finances private sector companies with a focus on sustainable development. Proparco recently financed EnkoEducation, an IB school in Johannesburg aimed at providing quality private school education at a fraction of the price.

At AFD we finance public sector projects that advance sustainable development. We finance governments, municipalities, public and private banks, and publicly owned companies and utilities.

Afrique du Sud – Addo Elephant National Park from Groupe AFD on Vimeo.

How has your experience been working in Africa?

I have been working in Africa for the past thirty years. It is a continent of great contrasts, but contributing to Africa’s growth and progress has been very rewarding for me.

What is the best thing about South Africa?

Without a doubt the people. Second, I would put the beauty of the county which is like a small continent unto itself.

What do you miss the most about France?

I would probably say Paris and the open air markets – with the huge variety of fruits, vegetables, and cheese!