The Brief | February 11, 2019

Economist event lookbook, Zimbabwe’s rural loan fund, lease-to-own motorbikes in Uganda, boosting trucking livelihoods

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

The Economist stages a debate on the future of impact investing. “Wall Street meets Mother Teresa.” That’s the headline for the “debate” kicking off The Economist’s third annual impact investing forum in New York on Tuesday. Does the motion – “impact investing will turn out to be the most profitable way to invest” – get at the right questions? In a minor ImpactAlpha tradition, we’ve name-checked the headliners who will be offering their takes, including on investments in climate adaptation, refugees and other emerging sectors (ImpactAlpha is a media sponsor of the event). In the mock debate will be Goldman Sachs’ John Goldstein, the Beeck Center’s Lisa Hall, IGNIA’s Michael Chu, and Ronald Gilson, a professor at Columbia and Stanford.

This year’s muddled message may be a signal of the uncertainty that is grasping impact as an investment approach. Whether finance can solve the problems that finance helped create remains an open question. Is impact investing the solution, or part of the problem? Managers are indeed raising assets on impact theses. Ellevest’s Sallie Krawcheck will speak about gender-lens portfolios. Catherine Berman will talk about CNote’s products for “everyday investors.” JUST Capital’s Martin Whittaker will discuss JUST’s rankings of companies on public priorities determined by polling. Impact investing has grown with the bull market, as the agenda notes, but in that same period so have greenhouse gas emissions, the poverty gap and a global refugee crisis. The Economist claims Tuesday’s event will “demand more of the business leaders at the helm of the global economy.”

Read, “The Economist stages a debate on the future of impact investing,” by Jessica Pothering, on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Zimbabwe’s Masiyiwa launches $100 million loan fund for rural entrepreneurs. One of Africa’s ten wealthiest men, Strive Masiyiwa, and his wife, Tsitsi, are launching the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge Fund to make loans to small businesses in rural Zimbabwe. Four out of five Zimbabweans work in the informal economy. More than two-thirds don’t have bank accounts, a function of mistrust after Zimbabwe’s 2008 economic collapse. Masiyiwa, who built his wealth in the telecom business, is financing the initiative. The fund will originate low-interest loans of $1,000 to $10,000, half of them to women. Masiyiwa says he has challenged his philanthropist friends “to join us to expand it across Africa.” Learn more.

Tugende secures $5M loan from PG Impact Investments for lease-to-own motorbike taxis. Motorbike taxis, or “boda-bodas,” are a mainstay of transportation in Kampala’s traffic-choked streets. Without the ability to buy a motorcycle outright, most drivers rent their bikes. Kampala-based Tugende offers lease-to-own financing on motorcycles for Uganda’s boda-boda drivers. The mission is to improve asset ownership, boost drivers’ incomes, and improve road safety. The company has 10,000 customers and has completed 7,000 leases since launching in 2013. Swiss impact investing firm PG Impact Investments’ loan will help Tugende expand its lending services. Here’s more.

Harlem Capital backs Sudu to support minority-run trucking businesses. Atlanta-based Sudu runs a marketplace to connect small trucking companies to corporations like Walmart and UPS. New York-based Harlem Capital has invested an undisclosed amount of capital to help improve transparency, efficiency and carbon-reduction in the trucking market. Harlem Capital’s Jarrid Tingle also touted Sodu’s impact on wealth-creation for women and minority business owners. Harlem joins Sudu’s early funders including Atlanta Seed Company, Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, Plug and Play, and corporate-backed Engage Ventures. Read on.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

RSF Social Finance is seeking a senior director of credit… Travel accessories company Away is hiring a social impact director in New York… Also in New York, Tideline is recruiting an impact investing analyst / coordinator… Professional learning platform Gerson Lehrman Group is accepting applications for its diversity scholarship…  Applications are open for the Imperia Global Innovation Incubator for women… I-Dev, ImpactHub and ImpactAssets are hosting a commemoration for Jason Spindler (see, “Agent of impact remembered: The legacy of I-DEV’s Jason Spindler) on Feb. 13 in San Francisco.

February 11, 2019.