“Weaving systems” for impact investing in Central America and the Caribbean



ImpactAlpha, Nov. 12Agents of Impact from around Central America and the world arrive in Antigua, Guatemala this week for the fifth Foro Latinoamericano de Inversión de Impacto Centroamérica y El Caribe.

The spinoff of the annual FLII in Mérida, Mexico, aims to advance solutions on issues from gender equality and economic inequality to migration and climate change

Pomona Impact, for example, is raising a $35 million second fund to deploy into high-growth enterprises in Central America, in agriculture, as well as basic services including health, education, water and renewable energy.

“Weaving systems,” the conference theme, puts an emphasis on collaborating across sectors. It’s also a nod to the region’s competitive agriculture and creative economies. 

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As urgency around such issues has risen, so too has interest in businesses and projects that seek to address them, says Daniel Buchbinder, founder of Alterna, the conference host. Global trends and current events, he says, are driving a greater interest in impact investing. 

In the four years since the first FLII Central America and the Caribbean, Buchbinder told ImpactAlpha, “the logic and the investment impact and value proposal have grown.” The range of impact investing instruments, he says, is growing to meet the social environmental challenges of the region.

The agenda

Representatives of more than 60 fund managers, angel investors, corporate investors, NGOs and regional and international banks are expected among the 600 participants.

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The more than 250 early-stage companies include recycling monetization firm Ecoins in Costa Rica, El Salvador’s MASSHI, which trains and employs deaf women to produce handicrafts, and Guatemalan firms Ethikos Global and Mai. The turnout is an indication of “how the Caribbean and Central American market has evolved in these years,” said Buchbinder. 

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On the agenda: the future of agriculture and cooperatives, reproductive rights, impact tech, the creative economy and climate change. In a mainstage fireside chat, Raúl Pomares of Sonen Capital and Richard Aitkenhead of IDC Group Advisor will discuss Central America’s unique inflection point (see Pomares’s SOCAP interview with Rodrigo Villar of Mexico City-based New Ventures).

Agent of Impact (and author of the book Leapfrog) Nathalie Molina Niño of O³Leticia Gasca of Skill Agility Lab, and Toniic’s Emilie Cortes will deliver keynotes.

Jeff Furman, one of Ben & Jerry’s first employees and an emeritus board member, will dish on the success of one of the world’s most iconic social enterprises, and its acquisition by Unilever. 

Local flavor

Buchinder had attended the Latin American Impact Investment Forum in Mexico since it was created and has a good relationship with New Ventures, the Mexico-based organizer. He was convinced of the need for such a fresh, diverse and inclusive connection place in the center of the American continent.

Central America and the Caribbean needed to connect with the rest of the world, and with each other, he says. Now, investors from around the world attend the FLII Central America and the Caribbean. 

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“All social issues, human rights, migration, extreme climate events… all these challenges are also incredible opportunities to invest and reverse thanks to impact investment,” says Buchinder.

The Central America region “is an ideal place to pilot schemes and understand if a financial instrument works or not, in the fastest way possible.”

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