(Bloomberg) -- The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank plans to invest $1 billion in projects across Africa to boost connectivity and spur growth.

Funding for Africa by the Beijing-based supranational that’s challenging the global influence of more established peers such as the World Bank remains low. Only about 4% of the $52 billion it has financed since inception about eight years ago has gone to the continent, according to AIIB President Jin Liqun.

Africa’s infrastructure funding gap is estimated at about $700 billion, he said in an interview in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The continent’s already highly indebted nations often have to choose between repaying expensive loans or meeting the basic needs of their citizens. Ramping up spending on much-needed infrastructure remains a distant priority.

The AIIB has a pipeline of seven projects including in green energy in Egypt and Madagascar, providing water in Morocco, Liqun said. The multilateral lender is also working with Ivory Coast to develop a multi-year lending program for projects.

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AIIB begun operations in 2016 and has grown membership to 109 countries including China, which controls 26.5% of the lender. India has 7.6% stake and Russia about 6%.

Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritania are among nations finalizing procedures to join the bank with 16 African members. Kenya, Ivory Coast and Nigeria will be key in growing AIIB’s portfolio on the continent in coming years, Liqun said.

Panda Bonds

There’s interest from African members to issue Panda and Samurai bonds in the footsteps of Egypt, which raised 3.5 billion yuan from China markets using AIIB guarantees, Liqun said. The lender would like to support more transactions, Liqun said.

While many countries on the African continent are facing debt pressures, the bank’s non-concessional lending is “certainly cheaper than what these countries can get from commercial lenders” and rates in the capital markets.

The real cost of projects isn’t the funding cost, but the drawn-out project timelines, according to Liqun.

“Too often we see that a power plant is waiting for the transmission line to be completed or transmission line is waiting for the power to be generated,” he said.

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(Corrects to remove reference of China’s backing in the headline, adds membership in fifth paragraph.)

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