The Brief | March 9, 2020

The Brief: International women’s impact, Prudential’s green bond, distributed solar in Africa, social impact bond in Belgium, women in climate finance

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

To empower women, back female fund managers. Expanding women’s access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities is the key to ending poverty and strengthening communities, especially in emerging markets. Who can help do that? Female fund managers, who are apt to invest in female entrepreneurs, who have been shown to deliver greater impact on women and their communities. Women-led investment teams are significantly more likely than male-led teams to invest in women founders. But women control less than 3.5% of investment capital. At least partly as a result, women-led ventures attract less than 3% of invested capital.

  • Local capacity. WIC Capital, in Dakar, Senegal, was founded by a group of 80 local professional women who each committed their own capital to prove the women’s investment opportunity (see, How local early-stage funders are finding impact alpha in emerging markets). Even before raising funding from outside investors, WIC has pooled $1 million to invest in local women-led businesses, only 3.5% of which raise funding beyond immediate friends and family; the rest represent “a vast untapped source of job creation and economic growth” according to WIC. The fund is leading a €330,000 ($377,000) investment in E-cover, which repurposes used tires into rubber granules to be used as turf in building and infrastructure projects. The startup is purchasing an industrial recycling facility and expects to create 25 local jobs.
  • Gender lens investing. The U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific selected Small Enterprise Assistance Funds to launch the SEAF Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund in Southeast Asia and expand SEAF Bangladesh Ventures, which together are expected to mobilize $150 million for small and growing businesses. The U.S. International Development Finance Corp. has built Africa and Latin America tracks in its 2X Women’s Initiative to directly invest in “businesses and funds owned by women, led by women, or providing a good or service that intentionally empowers women.” The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs’ $1.2 million Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund, backed by USAID and the Visa Foundation, will make eight awards to initiatives with innovative approaches for boosting investments in women entrepreneurs in South and Southeast Asia.
  • Public equities. Veris Wealth Partners updated its tally of public-markets gender-lens funds and found $3.4 billion in gender-lens investing products as of last June 30. That’s up from $2.4 billion a year earlier. Ten of the investment products reported assets of over $100 million; six had more than $250 million. The gender lens market is still primarily a North American phenomenon, Veris said, but noted there are eight public-market gender-lens funds in the Asia Pacific region, two in South America and one in Africa.
  • Share this post.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Prudential Financial issues $500 million green bond. Proceeds from the offering, the firm’s first and among the first from a U.S. life insurer, will be allocated to investments in renewable energy, green buildings, sustainable management of natural resources, and land use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve resource efficiency. BNP Paribas was a bookrunner.

ARCH’s Africa Renewable Power Fund invests $16.5 million in CrossBoundary Energy. The equity funding will allow CrossBoundary to develop and finance commercial and industrial distributed solar assets for African businesses. London-based ARCH says the investment is the “first stage of a larger transaction under finalization by CrossBoundary Energy to scale solar for business across Africa.”

BNP Paribas invests in impact bond for Belgium’s at-risk homeless population. The French bank is committing €850,000 ($969,000) to a €1.7 million pay-for-success program to house and provide workforce training to 133 young adults at risk of becoming homeless. It is Belgium’s first social impact bond – and BNP’s 10th.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Anne Simpson of California Public Employees’ Retirement System, Meryam Omi of Legal & General Investment Management, Mindy Lubber of Ceres and Jane Ambachtsheer of BNP Paribas Asset Management are among the investors on GreenBiz’s 25 badass women shaking up the climate movement in 2020… In Global Landscapes Forum’s list of 16 women restoring the earth, Calvert Impact Capital’s Jennifer Pryce is “The Investor,” Sixth World Solutions’ Janene Yazzie is “The Activist,” and Green Climate Fund’s Jyotsna Puri is “The Evaluator”… Linda-Eling Lee at MSCI and Karina Funk of Brown Advisory represent sustainable finance on Barron’s 100 most influential women in U.S. finance right now.

There’s still time to register for today’s live webcast “Integrity Through Assurance,” hosted by Tideline and the Rockefeller Foundation. It features Calvert Impact Capital’s Caitlin Rosser, IFC’s Diane Damskey and UNPRI’s Saumya Mehrotra, as well as Rockefeller’s Mike Muldoon and Tideline’s Christina Leijonhufvud, from 3-5pm ET.

MIT Solve launches a Global Health Security & Pandemics challenge seeking tech innovations to address global health preparedness, early detection and rapid response… Citi is recruiting a vice president of venture investing for its Citi Impact Fund in New York or San Francisco… Veris Wealth Partners is hiring a San Francisco-based wealth manager… GP Renewables and Trading is looking for a compliance and regulatory analyst in New York… Boston Common Asset Management seeks an office administrator in Boston.

Thank you for reading.

–Mar. 9, 2020