Impact investing aims to create sustainable social and environmental impacts for investee enterprises and communities as well as adequate financial returns. As an attractive emerging market investment strategy, it involves development finance institutions and philanthropic foundations partnering with mainstream private venture capital to create impact funds with the goal of catalysing inclusive market-based enterprise development in low income countries. In this seminar, we present findings from a three-country scoping study assessing the nature and operations of impact funds in Africa and the associated research opportunities on this topic. To facilitate the assessment, we reviewed the existing literature on impact investing, considering this along three interrelated perspectives, namely 1) impact investing as development finance policy for economic development, 2) impact investing as a development in socially responsible investing, and 3) impact investing as capacity-building for inclusive business development in African economies. The interplay of these perspectives shapes the constitution and operational strategies of specific impact funds and provide a conceptual context for understanding impact investing at country level.
Drawing on interviews, email exchanges and roundtable discussions with representative global and country-specific (Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Kenya) stakeholders our analysis makes three contributions to the impact investing debate. First we explore a model for understanding the ways in which impact funds are being channelled into inclusive businesses in Africa and the associated catalytic effects on poverty alleviation, social and economic development. Second we identified and tested access to, a range of impact funds and associated sector-specific inclusive businesses for future case writing – hopefully ‘failures’ as well as ‘successes’. Finally, we reflect on some of the unanswered managerial and policy-related questions that require a more rigorous inquiry-led appraisal to better understand and enhance the contribution of impact funds to inclusive business development in Africa.