As Nigeria battles a high unemployment rate and declining education standards, experts have said impact investing will play a pivotal role in addressing pressing socio-economic needs and reducing vulnerability to economic shocks.
The experts who spoke at an event organised by the African Venture Philanthropy Alliance (AVPA) said impact investments are investments made to generate positive and measurable social and environmental impact as well as a financial return.
Tochukwu Ezeukwu, the regional director of AVPA in West Africa said the event was organised to create opportunities for players in the impact investment sector to exchange ideas, and insights and drive collaborations to drive impact across Africa and globally.
Ezeukwu highlighted the urgency of addressing the education crisis in Nigeria through impact investment, saying, “The number of out-of-school children in Nigeria is more than the entire population of Senegal and Gabon put together.”
“This is one of the imperatives for impact investment, and what we try to do is to harness all the assets, talents, tools, and models that we can find, to be able to even if it is to just move the needle a little bit and that journey towards sustainable development financing on our continent.”
Adding to that, Frank Aswani, CEO of AVPA, chipped in on the role of corporate responsibility in impact investment, stating, “The whole issue of profit and purpose and why corporates should care about this is fundamental because, for instance, we’re just coming off a crisis of COVID.
“When COVID hit us, it didn’t choose a corporate or non-corporate person. It hit all of us the same way but it also exposed some huge cracks in our social support fabric.”
Aswani also underscored the need for a shift in the loss perspective of social impact investment, saying, “We need to change the perception that solving social issues is a loss-making initiative.”
“There are a lot of opportunities in solving social challenges; whether you’re looking at building infrastructure, investing in young people or women, all of these things have opportunities where the more commercial players can make just as much money while making a social impact.”
Kyari Bukar, managing director and co-founder of Trans Sahara Investment Corporation and an AVPA Nigeria board member, in his address, shared insights into how impact investments can drive transformative change.
He noted that the entire thesis of social investing is looking at entrepreneurs that see problems as opportunities and try to come up with solutions that would solve those immediate and persisting issues.
Bukar also stated the potential for profitable solutions, saying, “Impact investment is not limited to being altruistic; in that, you’re doing it for the greater good, but that comes with the territory.”
“However, one can also get a return as an investor in that those solutions that are structured, created innovatively to address the problems; people even at the bottom of the pyramid are willing to pay for it.”
Chinedu Allinson, member relations manager for AVPA in West Africa, summed up the organisation’s mission, stating, “AVPA’s mission is to increase the flow of capital into the impact space in Africa.”
“We believe that by combining our resources, knowledge, and expertise, we can tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing our continent,” she said.