East Africa Emerges as Global Hub for Impact Investing

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Investments focused on fostering social or environmental goals are playing an increasing role in East Africa, which a new report says is a global center for so-called impact investing.

Nearly $10 billion in impact-investment funds have flowed into East Africa, the report, produced by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and Open Capital Advisors, reveals.

Nairobi is the nexus of this funding and the base for many of the managers handling it, the report says, with about half of the $9.3 billion invested in Kenya. Neighboring Uganda and Tanzania receive 13% and 12% of the pie respectively. Ethiopia is trailing at 7% of the total.

According to the report, impact investment is becoming an increasingly significant component of overall investment in the region. The report defines impact investors as “those who invest with the intention to generate a beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return—and who seek to measure the social or environmental returns generated by their investments.”

The report notes, however, that the overwhelming majority of the $9.3 billion total comes from development finance institutions (DFIs), organizations such as the World Bank that have traditionally dominated the financing space in the developing world. Only $1.4 billion of the total comes from funds that aren’t related to DFIs, a sign that, while the impact-investment world is gathering pace, it’s still dominated by traditional sources of funding.

Nairobi alone is home to dozens of such funds, often co-financed by state aid agencies from developed countries, and private-sector players, such as major Western banks.

Kenya will stay at the forefront of this type of investment in future, the report says, in part because of its better-educated workforce and relatively open markets. Still, the positive financial outcomes of impact funding—in the profitability sense—are yet to be seen broadly, as few funds have successfully exited investments, the report notes.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (link opens in a new window)

Environment, Impact Assessment
impact investing