Greetings, Agents of Impact and happy summer solstice!
Featured: Development Finance
Could a ‘New Global Pact’ wring catalytic capital from the World Bank and development finance institutions? In the year since Barbados’ Mia Mottley floated the “Bridgetown Agenda,” the need for 21st century institutions for financing global development has grown more urgent. Pandemics, climate-driven disasters and deepening cycles of sovereign debt are making business-as-usual ever less tenable and putting global accords such as the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals increasingly out of reach. The reform agenda will take center stage at this week’s Summit for a New Global Pact in Paris, hosted by France’s Emmanuel Macron. The summit could raise pressure on multilateral banks, led by the World Bank, as well as national-level development finance institutions, to optimize and scale funding for climate-resilient development. “We’re seeing the emergence of leadership and creativity from developing economies to confront these challenges,” Dileimy Orozco with the consulting firm E3G said in a briefing.
- Hot seat. A recent analysis of the World Bank’s climate portfolio found projects financed often have little to do with reducing greenhouse gas emissions or helping countries adapt to climate change. Several hundred projects out of the more than 2,500 included in the World Bank’s climate portfolio between 2000 and 2022 had no clear link to climate change, according to an analysis by the Center for Global Development and the Breakthrough Institute. A separate study from the Center found that financing for climate adaptation from intermediary funds such as the Green Climate Fund and Global Environment Facility was less likely to go to the most climate-vulnerable countries. “There is little correspondence with mitigation and adaptation going to where they are most needed,” the Center’s Clemence Landers tells ImpactAlpha.
- Reform agenda. Specific items to be discussed in Paris include a levy on maritime shipping that could generate up to $60 billion a year for climate aid grants to low-income countries. A “climate resilience clause” championed by Mottley would allow countries to pause debt payments in the event of disasters such as a hurricane or flood. Also up for discussion are new methods to unlock private finance for climate action in low-income countries, such as $100 billion in currency risk guarantees by the International Monetary Fund. Wealthy nations have been urged to transfer to poorer ones “special drawing rights” that give members of the IMF access to a reserve fund to shore up liquidity.
- Keep reading, “Could a ‘New Global Pact’ wring catalytic capital from the World Bank and development finance institutions?” by Amy Cortese on ImpactAlpha.
Sponsored by J&J Impact Ventures
Unlocking opportunity for impact in digital health with diverse entrepreneurs. RockHealth.org, the nonprofit arm of the Rock Health family of organizations, launched the Equitable Investment Initiative last year to direct more investment resources to female founders and founders of color in digital health. “It is imperative that we embrace, support and amplify the genius of bold founders across the digital health landscape and take concrete action to upend existing inequitable digital health investment patterns,” writes RockHealth.org’s Deonta Wortham. Among the questions investors should ask, she says: How plugged in are innovators to communities on the ground?
- Keep reading, “Unlocking opportunity for impact in digital health with diverse entrepreneurs,” by RockHealth.org’s Deonta Wortham.
AI is revolutionizing healthcare… but for whom? Artificial intelligence does not necessarily create more access where barriers to health exist. “Without a focus on inclusiveness and equity, entrepreneurs and impact investors risk developing solutions that only widen the chasm between the haves and have-nots,” writes Guillermo Pepe of Mamotest. The Buenos Aires-based health startup is pairing AI with human connection and an intentional focus on breaking down barriers to healthcare access to combat breast cancer in Latin America.
- Keep reading, “AI is revolutionizing healthcare… but for whom?,” by Mamotest’s Guillermo Pepe.
Dealflow: Returns on Inclusion
Black women-owned Impact America closes $112 million third fund. The firm’s third fund is more than double the size of Impact America’s Fund II, which raised $55 million in 2020 in what was then one of the largest raises by a solo Black female general partner. The new fund will invest in 30 early-stage companies. Impact America targets founders that are “working to build massively profitable and purposeful companies that can uplift Black and Brown workers, families and small businesses,” Impact America’s Kesha Cash wrote in a post (see, “Kesha Cash, Agent of Impact”). Cash declined to comment further. Impact America’s deals include sustainable materials company Aja Labs and CareAcademy, which is upskilling home health caregivers.
- Venture crunch. “As the venture market contracts and the needs of low- and moderate-income communities across the country grow, we’re prioritizing portfolio support,” Cash wrote. Limited partners in the new fund include MassMutual, Health Forward, Cambridge Associates, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Deutsche Bank. Foundations, including Ford, MacArthur, California Wellness, Marguerite Casey and W.K. Kellogg, also committed to the fund. The third fund brings Impact America’s total assets under management to $177 million.
- Check it out.
Yellow raises $14 million for solar energy and smartphone financing in Africa. Maya Stewart and Michael Heyink launched Yellow in 2017 to provide flexible financing for home solar systems to off-grid customers in Malawi. The company has expanded to Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Madagascar and added new products like smartphones. Yellow’s more than 400,000 customers are screened by its online network of 1,100 agents. Customers pay a $10 deposit and repay the rest monthly over six to 24 months. Yellow’s most popular product is a solar home system with a panel and battery, four lights, a cell phone charger and radio. “Yellow’s offering is tackling the triple challenge of financial inclusion, green energy distribution and broadband penetration, serving the unbanked communities of the lowest income countries in Africa,” said Brandon Doyle of Convergence, which led the round with Energy Entrepreneurs Growth Fund and Platform Investment Partners.
- Off-grid future. Off-grid pioneers like Zola, Sun King and M-KOPA are using different approaches to expand energy access (see, “Zola, Sun King and M-KOPA offer three paths to Africa’s off-grid energy future”). The number of people living without access to electricity in Africa has increased since the global Covid-19 pandemic.
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Dealflow overflow. Other news crossing our desks:
- Northvolt secured a $400 million convertible note from Investment Management Corp. of Ontario to expand production of lithium-ion batteries. (Reuters)
- Berkeley, Calif.-based KoBold Metals raked in $195 million from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Earthshot Ventures and others to dig up metals critical for decarbonization, such as lithium and copper. (WSJ)
- Satellite-based weather forecasting company Tomorrow.io raised $87 million in Series E funding. The company last year called off plans to go public via a special purpose acquisition company. (Tomorrow.io)
- Raleigh, NC-based GreenPlaces raised $13 million to help restaurants, hotel groups and other businesses implement sustainability plans. (GreenPlaces)
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Ariel Hyre is promoted to analyst at Clean Energy Ventures… Lissa Glasgo, ex- of the Global Impact Investing Network, joins Turner Impact Capital as vice president and head of impact… Federal Reserve Bank of New York appoints Nonprofit Finance Fund’s Aisha Benson to its community advisory group.
Impact America Fund is hiring a senior manager of finance and operations (see Dealflow, above)… Upstart Co-Lab is looking for an operations and communications manager… Talvana is recruiting a sustainability associate in London… Apex Group seeks ESG impact analysts in several locations in India.
Oikocredit has an opening for an investment officer in Nairobi… Also in Nairobi, 60 Decibels is hiring an agriculture manager… The Alberta Ecotrust Foundation is looking for an impact investing director… The UK’s Impact Investing Institute requests proposals for data aggregation solutions for the community development finance institution sector.
Thank you for your impact.
– June 21, 2023