SOUTH AFRICA: In a massive boost to Africa's private sector, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank arm that finances companies, is to almost treble its support on the continent over the next five years to more than $1 billion a year reports Business Day (South Africa). The expansion in financing to the continent will involve a doubling in IFC financing for projects in South Africa over the next year to about $200 million. Part of the IFC's unfolding plan is for it to play a far greater role in helping smaller South African companies invest in the continent. In SA, the IFC stressed, it would steer clear of areas of potential competition with commercial banks, but it would offer them financing and technical help to expand low cost housing loans and support for small businesses. Dick Ranken, the Johannesburg-based head of IFC operations in Africa, said the planned increase in financing would amount to the most significant increase by the IFC in lending to one region in its 50 years' history. Ranken said the $1 billion that the IFC planned to reach in annual commitments within five years, would take both the form of loans and equity stakes in companies.