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Impact Investment: Bridge between Philanthropy and Traditional Investing

The recent loss of my aunt to the coronavirus, albeit in the more developed climes of England, took me through a journey down memory lane. I recalled stories she had shared of various pivotal incidents in her life as a young woman. One of such stories included, the time her mom, my grandmother had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and a surgeon at one of the notable hospitals in the South West if Nigeria, upon learning she lived in England, clandestinely advised her to fly her mother out for better medical attention. Allegedly, the treatment they were giving her for the brain tumour was actually suboptimal and in more express terms non-existent. This was a situation in the early eighties (80s) and in 2021, we still speak of poor health care infrastructure and other essential development challenges in the country. This personal story is most definitely not peculiar to me and many more Nigerians can attest to the loss of at least one loved one as a result of our development gaps.

The 2008 Financial crisis , according to a 2013 UNDP Report, purportedly resulted in volatilities in the supply of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to African economies and studies have shown that declines in ODAs lead to further declines in public spending on development priorities in these economies. Covid-19 is another such crisis that has hit the global macro-economy, and based on antecedents of development spending in Africa – would it be prudent to look more to investors that are seemingly more attuned to their social conscience, to close the funding gap for critical areas of development across the continent?

This background is what framed my conversation last week with Meghan Curran ,who is the West Africa Director for Acumen. It was such a delight to hear Meghan’s views on Impact Investing in Nigeria based on her wealth of experience within the Development space and working in West Africa.

Sharing her perspectives on how impact investing may be viewed in Africa, she said:

“Impact investing serves as a bridge between what you might do with your philanthropy and what you might typically do with the capital you are using for investing. If you are thinking about philanthropy, impact investing is the way to go but for traditional investors, it can be a more difficult proposition.”

However, the vast majority of social enterprises or start-ups don’t get local funding, yet there is a plethora of high net worth individuals who are philanthropic. So, what’s the problem?

Meghan believes, and I agree, that there needs to be more education and awareness about the value of impact investing to drive an increase in local funding, especially as the funds are available. Speaking more broadly, Meghan shared that, for Impact Investing to thrive in Nigeria, there needs to be more capital that is impact first while expectations about returns need to be more realistic to attract a wider variety of actors . Additionally, the impact investing community should be used to actively influence and prove a sense of urgency around having a regulatory environment while easing some of the burdens of operating in Nigeria.

One of the key highlights of my conversation with Meghan was, her mild admonishment of investors, when she said:

“I think it’s really important for investors to recognise what it takes to meet some of these enterprises and entrepreneurs where they are and not apply silicon value expectations to the Nigerian context”.

This was such an important statement, especially giving the great number of ideas and innovations that don’t see the light of day, due to evaluations that are not reflective of local nuances and inadvertently preclude access to finance.

The topic of discussion on the SCwN Show was “Road to Development: Impact Investment Opportunities in Africa” The allusion was to the idea that maybe, Impact Investing would be the silver bullet for addressing our development gaps. Meghan was, however, sad to burst my bubble of hope. As expected, it would require the concerted efforts of all relevant actors within the ecosystem to take up their responsibilities and back up their talk with requisite action.

This article is dedicated to the memory of my late aunt, Late Mrs. Catherine Chienyewa Maduike – may her soul continue to rest in peace.

To listen to the full conversation with Meghan Curran, as she shared her insightful perspectives, please visit www.socialconscience.africa to find the podcast.

Yours conscientiously,

‘Nasa

 

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