The Brief | September 13, 2023

The Brief: Financing infrastructure in Africa, decarbonizing battery supermaterials, electric motorbikes in India, funding Black farmers

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

🤝 Meet up in Copenhagen. Kick off the networking at the GIIN Impact Forum with drinks with ImpactAlpha, Oxford’s Saïd Business School and Founders Factory Africa, Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the National Museum of Denmark’s Glass Hall. RSVP today.

Featured: Infrastructure Impact

Mobilizing private capital to bridge Africa’s $100 billion gap in infrastructure financing. African pension funds and private investors are starting to fill the gap in financing to meet Africa’s big-ticket energy and infrastructure needs. Last week’s Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi emphasized the enormous investment opportunity for supporting the continent’s green growth and climate resilience, as well as the enormous investment shortfall (see, “African nations lean into opportunities in the green transition”). More than $250 billion is needed annually to shore up African nations’ climate resilience, including $100 billion for infrastructure development. A pair of guest posts on ImpactAlpha highlight the opportunities:

  • Power of pensions. African governments need private infrastructure investment; local institutional investors are a significant but under tapped source of capital. Pension fund consortia in Kenya and South Africa are engaging Africa’s institutional investors to close Africa’s infrastructure financing gap, mobilizing a combined $500 million in new infrastructure finance in the last three years. “Imagine the possibility if all of Africa’s 54 countries were able to similarly leverage their own institutional investors’ funding power,” write the consortia’s secretariat heads Anne-Marie D’Alton and Ngatia Kirungie. Get the full story.
  • Private finance for energy transmission. The talk of last week’s climate summit was renewable energy generation. Next up: transmission lines to bring clean energy to households, businesses and industry – a $45 billion a year, mostly missed, opportunity. “Transmission projects generate stable cash flows and attractive risk-adjusted returns,” write Alain Eboisse of Africa50 and Shri Sreekant of Power Grid Corporation of India, who are working with the Kenyan government to build two high-voltage transmission lines to deliver power in western Kenya. The partnership is among the first independent power transmission, or IPT, projects in Africa. The projects leverage a public-private transmission model used by India, Brazil and many OECD countries. “It is time for Africa to become part of a trend from which other emerging markets have benefited over the last 20 years,” the authors say. Go deeper

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Dealflow: Decarbonization Tech

Lyten snags $200 million to commercialize ‘supermaterial’ batteries and composites. The energy transition depends upon declining cost curves and better performance of low-carbon alternatives. Lyten is looking to accelerate the shift with 3D graphene, a superconducting form of carbon that can be tailored for batteries, composite materials, sensors and other uses. “New materials hold the key to delivering fundamentally better-performing products that will also deliver gigaton scale decarbonization impacts,” said Lyten’s Dan Cook. The $200 million Series B round will help the Silicon Valley-based company bring to market a low-carbon lithium-sulfur battery that is made without nickel, manganese, cobalt or graphite. The oversubscribed round was led by Prime Movers Lab, along with strategic corporate investors such as Stellantis, FedEx, Honeywell and construction company Walbridge Aldinger

  • Domestic supply chain. Lyten has spent eight years developing its 3D graphene, which it says significantly improves graphene’s performance and overcomes obstacles to commercialization. Its San Jose battery manufacturing plant opened in June and is expected to begin selling to its first customers next year. The company is planning a second plant in the US next year. Lyten last year received a Pentagon grant for innovations with commercial and national security applications.
  • Battery innovation. Battery recycler Ascend Elements hauled in $542 million in Series D funding led by Decarbonization Partners. The funding will support a new plant in Hopkinsville, Ky., and follows $480 million in grants from the Department of Energy. Separately, Massachusetts-based Florrent is developing ultracapacitors, a form of energy storage that can retain and release power faster than batteries, using hemp grown by farmers of color.

Dealflow overflow. Other news crossing our desks: 

  • Helsinki-based NordicNinja launches a second, €200 million ($215 million) sustainability venture fund with commitments from Japan Bank of International Cooperation, BaltCap and Swedbank pension funds, and existing Japanese investors Honda and Omron. (NordicNinja)

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Jack Moriarty, ex- of Ownership America, joins Lafayette Square Foundation as executive director … MSCI’s Linda-Eling Lee will helm the ratings firm’s new Sustainability Institute; Hiro Mizuno will advise the institute in his role as special advisor to the CEO… Kirsten Hill, most recently COO for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, joins Social Finance as president and COO… Hamilton Lane’s Erik Hirsch and Juan Delgado-Moreira will become co-CEOs effective in January; they will succeed CEO Mario Giannini, who will become co-chairman.  

BP’s CEO Bernard Looney, who led the London-based oil giant’s move into renewable energy, resignsErin Davis of Enduring Planet, CleanCapital’s Melinda Baglio and Piper Foster Wilder of 60Hertz Energy are among 11 winners of the US Department of Energy’s 2023 Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Awards… E3G is hiring a policy advisor of UK Energy Transitions among other roles in London… Save the Children Global Ventures has an opening for an impact investment manager in Singapore.

MoneyAfrica, Kitovu and Pricepally are among 17 finalists for the UNDP-EU Nigeria Growth Stage Impact Ventures program… Sorenson Impact Center becomes the Sorenson Impact Institute at the University of Utah, and is building a new headquarters at the David Eccles School of Business… Aspen Institute is hosting, “Thrive rural open field: Rural wealth creation,” Tuesday, Sept. 19.

👉 View (or post!) more impact investing jobs on ImpactAlpha’s Career Hub.

Thank you for your impact!

– Sept. 13, 2023