Impact Investing in the African Context – University of Cape Town

 

This past month, PRiMEtime has featured a number of programmes from universities around the world focused on impact investing. We finish off the series with an example from South Africa, from the University of Cape Town. There one faculty member has created a special one week intensive course focused on impact investing in the African context. I spoke with Aunnie Patton Power from the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cape Town about their initiatives in this space.

What is happening in Impact Investing in South Africa?

Impact investing on the continent is certainly growing.  It has been dominated by international funds in the past, but we are starting to see the emergence of funds based on the continent looking to deploy funds.  There is a lot of opportunity for local funds to partner with international funds to bring down costs around due diligence and ensure better local knowledge. According to the Global Impact Investing Network, sub-Saharan Africa makes up 22% of global impact enterprises.

How is the University of Cape Town exploring the topic?

One of the ways that we are looking at impact investing is through a course we have called Impact Investing in Africa, which is running for the third time this year. I created this course after I worked on the Oxford Impact Investing Program and saw the need for an African based course to help unlock capital on the continent towards impact.

The course takes place over 5 days. It is designed for a wide range of individuals including wealth managers, consultants, funders, lawyers and other financial intermediaries. We start with the landscape, language and themes of impact and then move on to how to find and evaluate deals and funds and how to measure impact.  We then look at portfolio construction and innovative financing structures as well as how to build strategies with clients and within institutions and the ins and outs of starting a fund.  Finally, we do a site visit to local enterprises that have received impact investment and are at the scale stage as well as visiting a set of incubators to spend time discussing the very early deal stage and what is needed.

Are there any resources on Impact Investing specific to the African context?

We have also been working on a number of case studies focused on impact investment in Africa. When we started there were almost no cases on the topic. It took us nearly a year and resulted in 14 cases (we’ve since developed 5 more).  I worked with an exceptional case writer and even roped in a few students.  The cases feature eighteen impact enterprises and sixteen funds from eleven countries across the continent and are shared in partnership with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. One of our cases won the 2016 CEEMAN case writing competition.  The cases are now used in our course and across the globe in dozens of other institutions.

The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation has an Innovative Financing Initiative that does projects with funders around the globe, convenes events and gathering, conducts research and enables teaching across the entirety of UCT.  We teach Impact Investing / Innovative Finance across all of our programs as either an elective or a core course.

What have been some of your successes?

It’s been so incredible to watch our alumni from the past two courses.  They’ve gone on to start their own funds and start funds within foundations and banks and development organizations.  They’ve also put impact investment practices into place at large institutions such as consulting firms, law firms and real estate practices.  One of the things that I’ve enjoyed is seeing how they support one another as an alumni group.  Several alums with significant experience now sit on the board of younger alums’ funds and organizations.  We also get a lot of new students through our alumni. We also see a large demand from international development organizations and non-profits keen to be involved as investors to ensure better sustainability for themselves and their underlying projects.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Spend a significant amount of time getting your curriculum and your mix of speakers correct.  There needs to be one strong convenor pulling the whole thing together that understands how the content should flow and how to tie it all together.  There are more and more options for curriculum available, so you don’t need to create your own, but you do need to create a cohesive, comprehensive experience for your students.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are holding our 3rd course from the 13th – 17th of November 2017.  We have 40 participants signed up from 15 countries.  I’m very excited about the participants this year.  I think we will always cap it at 40 as I don’t want it to get too large and take away from the experience, but it is amazing to grow the alumni base.

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