The Spanish capital, Madrid, hosted the 15th General Assembly of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF) from September 24th to 27th, 2023, with COFIDES, the Spanish sovereign investor, as the host.  

The annual IFSWF meeting brings together members and financial leaders from around the world to discuss key global topics impacting investors. This 15th edition saw the participation of 45 Sovereign Wealth Funds, including the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Djibouti (FSD), which joined IFSWF in May 2022. The forum gathers sovereign funds that adopt the Santiago Principles, aiming to improve their governance through best practices.  

The event also attracted multilateral institutions, IFSWF partners, and representatives from the Spanish government, bringing together over 200 participants. Globally, the sovereign wealth fund sector manages approximately $11 trillion, equivalent to over 10% of the global GDP. 

COFIDES, or the Compañía Española de Financiación del Desarrollo, is a state-owned commercial entity. It provides medium and long-term financing for viable private investment projects that, based on profitability criteria, contribute to the development of host countries and the internationalization of the Spanish economy and businesses. 

The company operates in various sectors and regions, including finance, infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, services, and agri-food. The Spanish Fund is active in many countries, not only in sub-Saharan Africa but also in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. 

COFIDES had the privilege of hosting this significant gathering of financial leaders from around the world for the first time. Participants discussed pressing issues, including climate disruptions, the global warming, and their devastating effects on societies. Given the scale of the phenomenon, investments in green energy have become imperative. Participants also delved into another critical topic related to technological advancements and the transformations imposed by the digital age, including concerns about Artificial Intelligence, cybercrime, and the rapid shift towards an all-digital world. 

Managing inflation and its impact on investment returns were also important concerns requiring strategic consideration. Lastly, the improvement of corporate governance once again emphasized the absolute necessity of working transparently while adhering to professional ethics to ensure the sustainability of Sovereign Wealth Funds. 

José Luis Curbelo, CEO of COFIDES, welcomed the opportunity to host this annual meeting. An annual meeting that showcased, in his words, “Our company (COFIDES) is becoming increasingly important on the international stage, positioning itself as a reference in public-private investment in Spain.” He added that his country, Spain, is firmly committed to green and digital transitions and that financing is necessary to make them possible. This requires foreign investment, including sovereign wealth funds, which are strategic due to their significant investment capacity and long-term vision. He expressed hope that this meeting would strengthen collaboration and cooperation with IFSWF members, benefiting the modernization of the production system and the competitiveness of the Spanish economy. 

As for Mr. Obaid Amrane, President of the IFSWF, he stated that, in essence, “Investments in green energy and digital technologies will both assist young generations in employment and skill acquisition and also grow the capital of Sovereign Wealth Funds in the long term.” He thanked COFIDES for graciously hosting the event, saying, “We are confident that this year’s discussions will enhance cooperation among IFSWF members and their partners, reinforce their commitment to the energy transition, and help promote a better understanding of the changing roles that sovereign wealth funds can play both at home and abroad.”   

In 2023, IFSWF saw an increase in its membership with the addition of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, Greece’s Growthfund, and the Brazilian Sovereign Funds Forum (FFSB), an association comprising sovereign funds from various cities and states in Brazil.  

Dr. Slim Feriani, CEO of the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Djibouti (FSD), highlighted the fruitful and enriching debates during the meeting, aimed at diversifying investment and intensifying collaboration among various financial institutions. He presented figures showcasing what the Spanish fund has achieved over the past thirty-five years. He noted that “since 1988, COFIDES has supported over 1,000 projects in nearly 90 countries, including 10 African countries, mobilizing significant funds exceeding 3.6 billion euros. This experience and expertise can play a key role in promoting economic and social development in Africa through targeted and sustainable investments.” He also emphasized to this high-profile audience “the importance of partnerships and co-investments among IFSWF members, who manage trillions of dollars, to reduce the gap between developed and developing countries, and FSD will be delighted to be the strategic partner of choice in Djibouti.”