ImpactAlpha, Rome, July 10 –– The Vatican’s interest in impact investing in the last few years has coincided with the growth in the number of refugees and migrants worldwide. At the Third Vatican Conference on Impact Investing in Rome this week, refugees and migrants were top of mind both on the panels and in the halls.
As with much of the conference discussion, Catholic teachings and the words of Pope Francis were intertwined with talk of investment vehicles and risk and return metrics.
“We’re seeing the emergence of a new sector, one with high moral clarity,” said Thane Kreiner, executive director of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, which runs a social enterprise accelerator focused on helping migrant and refugee populations. “It is the gospel that we need to welcome migrants and refugees. It’s part of the human condition—we’ve all migrated.”
At the beginning of the year, Pope Francis used his New Year’s Day address to highlight the struggles of migrants and refugees, calling upon global leaders to offer more assistance in 2018.
He paid tribute to those who have made “long and dangerous” journeys in an attempt to achieve a better future, saying that “Migrants and refugees: men and women seeking peace, this is the motto of this day.”
Kois Invest is in the final stages of structuring a social impact bond for employment assistance and entrepreneurship support to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. The Brussels-based impact-investing firm has an anchor investor in place for what it plans to be a $10 million to $15 million raise for the first phase of financing. The bond, which will fund organizations that provide job market integration services, will also benefit vulnerable local communities.
“The only way to convince local governments that it’s okay to provide work for refugees is if the local population benefits as well,” said Kois’s Béatrice Delperdange.
Kiva’s World Refugee Fund, which launched in 2016, has raised more than $7 million to fund refugee entrepreneurs around the world by mobilizing crowd-sourced investments and funding from corporations and foundations. The fund’s new goal: $30 million by 2020, including $10 million from the private sector, said Lev Plaves, Kiva’s portfolio manager for the Middle East.
Kiva’s effort has established a loan repayment track record, roughly 96%, that appears to be making investors more comfortable with the idea of deploying capital to finance the refugee community.
The new Refugee Investor Network connects private investors with opportunities to finance migrant and refugee housing, education, entrepreneurship and jobs. A member of the network now plans to commit a portion of a $30 million to $40 million microfinance fund to refugee investment, says Alight Fund’s John Kluge, who founded the network along with Andrew Stern at the Global Development Incubator.
The track record of early entrants “allows commercial investors to enter the market,” Kluge says. “That’s what we’re going to see more of.”