By Victor Adar
Kenya industry players have backed a move to form a National Advisory Board (NAB) to anchor policy interventions for inclusive and sustainable development through impact investment, with investors, social entrepreneurs, development finance specialists and policy-makers discussed the need for a coherent approach to impact investment.
NAB presents an opportunity to identify opportunities and resolve challenges faced by impact investors and entrepreneurs by engaging policymakers and informing the development of national impact investment strategies.
“We appreciate the platform provided by GSG for countries’ engagement to co-create policy interventions for inclusive and sustainable development through impact investment,” said Betty Maina, Principal Secretary to the State Department for Industrialisation.
Maina added that through the board, governments can ponder on the best way to address the ever present economic, social and environmental challenges.
“With the ever-diminishing fiscal space, it is evident to many governments around the world that we can no longer rely on the public sector resources. Private equity and venture capital, beside philanthropy, is increasingly becoming an important complement to scale up impact investments through collaborative action by making the needed policy changes.”
As the impact movement takes shape, many experts believe this is where the private sector can make huge profits, noting that a Marshall Plan of employment for not just the East African countries but Africa (as a whole) is important. This, they assert, will come not from just governments, but also from the private sector as well. It’s about getting the big players together to invest into new innovations and technology.
According to Susie Kitchens, the British High Commissioner, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) face a global annual investment gap of $2.5 trillion every year.
“Kenya is acknowledged as a regional hub for impact investing, being the third largest private equity market in sub-Saharan Africa. We have a great opportunity to shape the landscape and to drive forward the equitable march of progress to drive prosperity and security. We need bankable, investment-ready projects,” said Kitchens.
As impact movement takes shape, GSG chief executive, Amit Bhatia, emphasises the impact movement has the same core characteristics like other movements, with the advantage that it can be understood by a majority of people.
“All movements are replicable and decentralised, all successful movements are inclusive and abiding – they engage all citizens, all actors, irrespective of caste, religion, nationality etc., the impact movement is inclusive, the left, the right, big businesses, small businesses. We need to bid goodbye to aid and donors – we need to fix capitalism first.”
There is justified fear about how social enterprise work will reinforce the government institutions, but experts maintain impact movement needs to be informed by “what’s local and specific”, and will help institutions do a good job. A case in point is what mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa, is currently doing.
Duncan Onyango of Acumen says that any NAB “should embrace its convening power – the right people at the right time” while Peter Oloo, CEO of the Social Enterprise Society of Kenya, feels “the Kenyan NAB has come at the right time. We need the policy and legal framework in place for everything else to fall in place.”
In a word of caution, Siddhartha Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator, challenges impact investors to think big while noting there is room for profitable investments through economies of scale. “Kenya needs to make itself creditworthy and investor-friendly. NAB is great because it’s is from a country that also helped to create the SDGs.” (