The Brief | March 3, 2020

The Brief: Impact investing without conferences, community wellness in Chicago, creative marketplace in Cote d’Ivoire, the Caribbean’s clean energy potential

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Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

What is impact investing without conferences? We may be about to find out. Concern about catastrophic climate change was not enough. Even massive street protests last year couldn’t do it. It took fears about the spread of COVID-19 to pare back the annual circuit of global conferences and events. Now thousands of delegates to dozens of conferences are suddenly able to make good on vague intentions to cut their frequent flier mileage and carbon footprints. Cera Week, an energy industry conference scheduled for next week in Houston, was cancelled “with deep disappointment.” The Financial Times’ Investing for Good Asia event in Singapore has been rescheduled for October. The World Bank is reported to be considering a video conference instead of its planned Spring Meetings next month. The coronavirus has made a seer of Equilibrium Capital’s Dave Chen, who predicted on ImpactAlpha’s “Institutional Shift” podcast in January that “the quandary of travel” would be one of the year’s hot issues. “We have joked for years that we get on these international flights to some conference in Italy or Bali to discuss how we save the planet,” Chen said. “So we burn a lot of carbon to save the planet.”

For impact investors, the cancellations may create something of a natural experiment: Just how necessary are all those gatherings for getting the work done? Suzanne Biegel, who is co-producing the Gender-Smart Investing Summit set for London at the end of April, told ImpactAlpha, “We are deciding this week and will be communicating with our community.” The Skoll World Forum, March 31 to April 3 in Oxford, England, “is closely monitoring developments.” A spokesman said the Milken Institute Global Conference, May 3 to 6 in Beverly Hills, is “monitoring the situation carefully.” ImpactAlpha will do our part to keep the conversation going. Seriously: Send us that keynote address already drafted, those prepared panel remarks, that report set to be released, and we’ll redouble our efforts to keep everybody connected.

Keep reading, “What is impact investing without conferences?” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

West Side United recruits hospitals to invest in Chicago’s communities. The non-profit, which focuses on health, wellness and economic opportunity in Chicago’s underserved West Side neighborhoods, is encouraging medical facilities to invest in the social determinants of health. West Side United has recruited six local hospitals, the American Medical Association, Illinois Medical District and Northern Trust to invest $6 million in community development financial institutions in Chicago’s West Side. Hospitals can play a bigger role in “improving the economic conditions that drive poor health” by directing investments to small businesses and community organizations, said Omar Lateef of Rush University Medical Center, an investor in the initiative.

  • Social determinants. West Side United is aiming to reduce the life expectancy gap between Chicago’s West Side and wealthier areas by 50% by 2030. In Washington, D.C., Socially Determined raised $7.3 million in November to help healthcare providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies and community organizations understand social determinants of health. Catholic health provider Bon Secours is among a half-dozen healthcare providers investing in affordable housing. Healthcare network Kaiser Permanente has earmarked $200 million for supportive housing and homelessness prevention.
  • Read on.

Google and Toyota back WhereIsMyTransport’s $7.5 million funding round. South Africa’s public transit mapping and planning app launched in 2015 to make it easier for African commuters to plan daily travel. “In emerging markets, the mobility ecosystem is complex; informal public transport doesn’t behave like formal public transport,” explained WhereIsMyTransport’s Devin de Vries. “Our solutions are designed specifically to overcome these contextual challenges.” Early funding from impact investors Goodwell and Global Innovation Fund helped expand the platform across Africa and into India, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Both Goodwell and Global Innovation Fund have re-upped in the company’s Series A round alongside Google, Toyota Group’s Tsusho division, Liil Ventures and South African bank Nedbank.

Cote d’Ivoire fashion and art marketplace Afrikrea raises $1 million. Afrikrea is a platform for buying and selling fashion, art, fabric and cosmetics made in Africa. It has transacted $5 million in sales for 5,000 designers since 2016, Disrupt Africa reports. Existing investor Saviu, a holding company that invests in early-stage African startups, and Id4 Ventures backed Afrikrea. Africa’s creative economy is getting more attention: the African Export-Import Bank plans to invest $500 million over two years to boost culture and creative products and trade.

Amalgamated Bank helps PACE Funding finance residential sustainability upgrades. California-based PACE Funding Group provides affordable financing for energy efficiency upgrades, including solar installations, roofing, windows, HVAC, and water conservation. Amalgamated Bank, a certified B Corp, invested an undisclosed amount in PACE and agreed to buy PACE’s financing products.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Realizing the Caribbean’s renewable energy potential. For all their sunshine and wind, the Caribbean islands largely depend on high-cost fossil fuels and state-owned utility monopolies for power. A shortage of capital has blocked the rollout of cleaner and lower-cost energy infrastructure. German real assets manager MPC Capital has tapped domestic Caribbean investors for the first $27 million of its new Caribbean Clean Energy Fund. As part of a Clinton Global Initiative commitment, the firm aims to raise another $63 million from U.S.-based impact investors, institutions and foundations. “The Caribbean region is underserved and overlooked,” says Resilience Capital Ventures’ Gillian Marcelle, who is advising MPC. The islands are fragmented and the deals may be small, she says, but renewable infrastructure represents “a good business opportunity if you are willing to be patient.” The fund is aiming for a 12% annual return. Caribbean investors and institutions include the Jamaica National Group, Caribbean insurer Sagicor, the Development Bank of Jamaica and Teachers Credit Union of Trinidad and Tobago.

  • Clean energy pipeline. The Caribbean Clean Energy Fund has backed two projects including Paradise Park, a 51-megawatt solar park in Jamaica that has secured $50 million in project financing from French and Dutch development banks PROPARCO and FMO. The second project is Tilawind, a 21-megawatt wind farm in Tilarán, Costa Rica. More than a dozen solar, wind and energy efficiency projects in the pipeline require investments in the hundreds of millions.
  • Impact lens. Through a “blended finance” strategy, MPC will support capacity-building activities and education programs to recruit and train 250 renewable energy workers and 500 people in disaster preparedness, and will work with 500 high-level actors to create an enabling environment for renewable energy finance. Women will be a focus of each activity.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

AgFe’s Richard Atterbury joins the board at Media Development Investment Fund… Boston University is recruiting a director for its Institute for Sustainable Energy… Skoll Foundation seeks an associate director of strategy in Palo Alto, Calif… Google is hiring a strategic negotiator for energy contracts and renewable energy assets in Sunnyvale, Calif… B Lab is looking for a manager for its movement-builders program in Amsterdam.

New Island Capital is searching for an associate in San Francisco to support its sustainable agriculture and forestry investments… Clarmondial is looking for an investment officer in East or Southern Africa and an associate in Zurich… Avivar Capital is recruiting an operations manager and a summer associate in Los Angeles… Media Development Investment Fund seeks a part-time program coordinator for its team in Prague.

Thank you for reading.

–Mar. 3, 2020