Greetings, Agents of Impact! Thanks to the hundreds of you who tuned in to yesterday’s Plugged In call. Look out for the recap and replay in tomorrow’s Brief. – David Bank
In today’s Brief:
- Africa’s green jobs boom
- Generate Capital’s $1.5 billion raise
- ‘Impact alpha’ fund managers
Featured: The Transition
Upskilling Africa’s workforce for green jobs in renewable energy and resilient agriculture. National commitments to decarbonize economies and mitigate climate change are spurring a boom in green jobs around the world. “We have an opportunity to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity for our continent,” Kenya’s President William Ruto declared at the Africa Climate Summit last fall. One of Africa’s biggest assets: “Our young people,” he said. More than 70% of Africa’s 1.2 million people are under the age of 30. Most work in the informal economy. Meeting the Global Goal on Adaptation, adopted at last year’s COP28 climate summit, will require new skills in manufacturing, construction, renewable energy and regenerative agriculture. “Africa needs to prepare for the upcoming wave of green jobs,” say Charlie Habershon, Kusi Hornberger and Inês Charro of the global consultancy Dalberg. “Training for green skills on the continent will need to be dynamic and responsive” to support the shift toward a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy.
- Clean energy professionals. Entrepreneurs, investors and NGOs are standing up workforce training initiatives, starting with clean energy. Nairobi-based executive search firm Shortlist is increasing the pool of qualified young professionals with upskilling and job placement programs to make sure “clean energy companies are not being held back by hiring challenges,” says founder Paul Breloff. The programs are supporting thousands of workers. “The majority have stayed in the clean energy sector,” says Breloff. “We see that as really promising.”
- Local contexts. In Ghana, NorthLite Solar developed a women-focused recruiting and training initiative to hire more female sales agents, technicians and installers. KawaSafi Ventures, an Acumen spin-out fund, adapted its training for solar technicians with Strathmore University in Nairobi after noticing that women gravitated toward sales positions over technical roles because of commissions and work flexibility. “We realized we needed to expand the training to include some non-technical skills,” explains KawiSafi’s Angela Muraguri. Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, known as Wits, is supporting community-led green skills initiatives in regenerative agriculture and renewable energy.
- Sector-specific. Training for green skills needs to match specific needs of markets and sectors. In Kenya, Dalberg is developing a skilled workforce for solar irrigation in partnership with the nonprofit CLASP. In Guinea-Bissau, the Green Climate Fund, created under the Paris Climate Agreement, brought together partners to train over 450 youth in climate-resilient agriculture. “The success of projects like these underscores the importance of collaboration between local expertise, private sectors and governmental support,” the Dalberg team writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. Read their full post.
- Planning ahead. Most of Africa’s green skills initiatives are focused on urgent, current needs rather than long-term demand. “We are extremely reactive,” acknowledges Wits’ Presha Ramsarup, who helped produce the “South African Energy Skills Roadmap” to anticipate workforce needs for a long-term just energy transition. Needed: national climate skills assessment gaps and better industry data. “If we can collect better data on where skill demand will come from,” says Shortlist’s Breloff, “we can be much more proactive in making sure that talent is mobilized, prepared and ready to go.”
- Keep reading, “Upskilling Africa’s workforce for green jobs in renewable energy and resilient agriculture,” by Lucy Ngige and Jessica Pothering on ImpactAlpha.
Dealflow: Green Infrastructure
Pension funds power Generate Capital’s $1.5 billion sustainable infrastructure raise. The infusion of equity capped more than a year of fundraising by the San Francisco-based developer, operator, owner and financier of sustainable infrastructure. “While the window for action is getting smaller every day, we have the blueprints to build the critical infrastructure that will ensure a livable future,” said Generate Capital’s Scott Jacobs. The blueprints include renewable power and electrifying municipal fleets, as well grid resilience and waste upcycling. New investors included the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and Australian pension fund HESTA. Existing investors QIC and AustralianSuper re-upped. The fresh funding follows a $2 billion injection in 2021, and brings Generate’s total capital raised since 2014 to $10 billion.
- One-stop shop. Generate, a rare infrastructure Public Benefit Corp., has built a set of offerings and partnerships to underpin the energy transition. The company says its infrastructure has generated 320 gigawatts of clean power and processed more than 715 kilotons of organic waste. The fresh funding “means that we can build more sustainable infrastructure assets, faster, and we can partner with more leaders of the energy transition,” Jacobs told ImpactAlpha.
Zum raises $140 million for school bus batteries on wheels. School buses are the largest source of mass transit in the US, transporting over 20 million students to and from school daily. Most run on dirty diesel fuel. Zum’s electric school buses have provided more than a million rides to 4,000 schools in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, Nashville and other US cities. With AutoGrid’s software for virtual power plants, or VPPs, Zum plans to equip 10,000 electric buses over four years with more than one gigawatt of flexible capacity to help utilities match supply and demand. The new round of funding empowers Zum “to turn school buses into powerful tools for environmental change,” said CEO Ritu Narayan. The round was led by Singapore’s GIC, with participation from Climate Investment, Sequoia Capital, SoftBank Vision Fund and other investors. Keep reading.
Aquaconnect raises $4 million to link India’s fish farmers to supplies and markets. Chennai-based Aquaconnect supports fish and shrimp farmers with remote monitoring and access to cold storage, logistics and buyers. The startup helps farmers predict their need for feed and plan for harvest and sales. It also facilitates their sales by providing working capital to more than 500 retailers and 20 seafood buyers. Sustainable food and energy investor S2G Ventures led the company’s pre-Series B financing. Aquaconnect last year raised a $15 million Series A round from impact investors Omnivore and Lok Capital, as well as AgFunder, Flourish Ventures, Hatch Blue and others. Dive in.
Dealflow overflow. Investment news crossing our desks:
- London-based Giant Ventures raised a $150 million climate growth fund and a $100 million fund focused on health and economic inclusion in the UK and US. (Giant Ventures)
- Cambridge, Mass.-based Inari, which uses AI and gene editing to breed climate-resilient plant seeds, secured $103 million from Hanwha Impact, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the State of Michigan Retirement System and other investors. (Inari)
- Accompany Health raised $56 million in Series A financing to provide healthcare to low-income and other underserved patients with complex needs, starting in Detroit. (Accompany Health)
- Timbuktoo Africa Innovation Fund snagged a $3 million seed commitment from Rwanda’s government to mobilize commercial capital for early-stage startups in Africa. (Taarifa)
Signals: Impact Investing
Ranks of ‘impact alpha’ fund managers expand, along with client demand and the talent pipeline. Cost efficiencies plus improved customer experiences plus carbon reduction in large markets equals high impact and high returns. That’s the equation that led San Francisco-based DBL Partners to companies like Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City and PowerLight. “What investors are seeing is the ability to create a new economy that is not extractive, that is more just, that addresses the needs of the 21st century,” says Nancy Pfund of DBL, which raised its $600 million fourth fund in 2021. “You can build big companies that will grow and become profitable and become great investments,” she tells ImpactAlpha (watch our on-stage interview with Pfund – from 2017). DBL is a pioneer among the ranks of investors that believe delivering outsized impact can drive outsized financial returns or, we daresay, impact alpha. Impact Capital Managers, a network of fund managers seeking “superior returns and meaningful impact,” now counts more than 115 members with combined assets of over $100 billion. New members include Tokyo-based GLIN Impact Capital, Atlanta-based O15 Capital Partners and Chicago’s Copia Group.
- Agents of Impact. Pfund, along with Mark Berryman of Caprock Group and Adrianna Alterman of the Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund will be celebrated at Impact Capital Managers’ “Evening of Impact” tonight in Manhattan. The winners of ICM’s Impact Awards, says executive director Marieke Spence, show “how impact investing has evolved, from niche to the mainstream.” The ability of the recipients “to deliver both impact and financial return is clear.” Next week, ICM and Tideline will outline seven levers for generating impact alpha in a report, “New frontiers in value creation,” and a webinar.
- Streamlining strategies. Berryman sees hundreds of impact fund managers as head of impact investing at Caprock Group, the $8.5 billion Boise, Idaho-based multifamily office and registered investment advisor. “Investing for impact across asset classes is doable. It’s simple. It’s not complicated,” he tells ImpactAlpha. At Salesforce, what started as a $50 million test fund within the company’s venture arm has grown to an evergreen fund that Salesforce recognized “should be directly integrated into the business,” says Alterman.
- Keep reading, “The ranks of ‘impact alpha’ fund managers expand, along with client demand and the talent pipeline,” by Dennis Price, Amy Cortese and David Bank.
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
US President Joe Biden taps clean energy advisor John Podesta to succeed John Kerry as climate envoy… ImpactAssets Capital Partners promotes Houda Ferradji and Helena Hong to investments principal and Siobhan King to portfolio management director… Total Impact Capital promotes Eliza Doll to vice president.
Ralph Lauren seeks an impact and sustainability manager in New York… The city of Birmingham, Alabama, has an opening for a chief resilience and sustainability officer… Second Horizon Capital is on the hunt for a community engagement intern… Autodesk is hiring an impact and ESG specialist… Temasek is looking for an impact investing associate in Singapore.
The Aspen Institute and PolicyLink will host, “The future of DEI in corporate America,” Tuesday, Feb. 20… Citi Foundation’s 2024 Global Innovation Challenge is looking for proposals from nonprofits for innovative community-focused approaches to tackling homelessness… Heifer International and FruitPunch AI launch the AI for Women Farmers Challenge to develop AI data tools for rural female farmers in Nepal.
Thank you for your impact!
– Feb. 1, 2024