November 9, 2021,

Lagos, Nigeria.





The 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing, which was held on the 9th of November 2021 at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos under the auspices of the Impact Investors’ Foundation (IIF) and the National Advisory Board for Impact Investing (NABII), combined both in-person and virtual sessions. Over 350 stakeholders participated in the full-day event, which was organized in collaboration with GIZ Nigeria Competitiveness Project, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), SME.NG, and Kuramo Capital.  


The overriding objectives of the 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing were to:  


  •  showcase impact investment opportunities in Nigeria; 
  • attract both local and foreign capital into the Nigerian market; 
  • explore solutions to the challenge of limited high-quality deal flows in the country’s impact investment ecosystem, and 
  • provide a forum for key stakeholders to present and discuss possible models and policies to improve the impact investment readiness of SMEs and MSMEs in Nigeria – especially in the wake of the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid 19 pandemic.   






One of the major criticisms of the capitalist economic system, as operated in many nations of the world – Nigeria inclusive – is that in a lot of these societies, capitalism has created wide disparities both in productivity and wealth, thereby negatively impacting a variety of factors including health, nutrition, and education. In recent years, of course, the innovations ushered in by technology have ensured some measure of a level playing field by complementing natural or acquired human ability with digital competence and putting the tools of empowerment in the hands of more and more people. But even technology still has a way to go towards addressing these basic disparities – in fact, in many ways, it has exacerbated them, courtesy of what is now known as the ‘digital divide’ among the haves and have-nots of the world. These disparities, according to critics of capitalism such as the German thinker Karl Marx, are the primary causes of conflicts between and within nations. Economic and social class, rather than differences in race, ethnicity or religion, is the main reason for tension among individuals and groups.  


In a bid to ameliorate these disparities and other negative effects of capital – its acquisition, its uses and the profit motive – civil society groups, faith-based organisations and (increasingly these days) business leaders, are beginning to rethink capital and to re-imagine its application in ways that enhance, rather than jeopardize, peace, security and harmony in the society. The emphasis is no longer on the perpetuation of the old cliché: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. These days the mantra is – or should be: We can all get ahead, and we are all in this together. Key players in the capitalist economy have come to realize that investing in human competitiveness (or social good) is an act of enlightened self-interest – at least in the medium and long terms. 


Hence the emergence of a new class of capitalists known as impact investors who are determined to apply capital in ways that exploit the numerous opportunities inherent in social wealth for the overall benefit of the community. Impact investment here refers to investments that are made into companies, organizations, and funds to generate positive, measurable, social and environmental impact alongside an expected financial return. Impact investing challenges the long-held view that social and environmental issues should be addressed only by philanthropic donations, and that market investment should focus exclusively on achieving financial returns.


One of the global champions for this new paradigm of capitalism is the Global Steering Group for Impact Investing (or GSG for short). It is a global organisation that was founded on the belief that investment done well can benefit all people and the planet. The GSG’s work is based on the need to situate societal and environmental impact at the heart of investment and business decisions. The GSG’s global influence is built on a unique and growing group of National Advisory Boards, currently made up of 28 national and regional Advisory Boards representing over 30 countries – including Nigeria, where the Impact Investors’ Foundation (IIF) and the National Advisory Board for Impact Investing (NABII)  with significant support from critical stakeholders, aim to accelerate the development of impact investing in the Nigerian investment landscape and to redefine the texture of the country’s overall economy. 


Its objectives in this regard were reiterated during its 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing on November 9, 2021. 




In her address to formally open the 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing and to welcome special guests, speakers, panellists and participants to the event, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, Chairperson of the Nigerian National Advisory Board for Impact Investing, acknowledged Nigeria’s current challenges – on the economic, food self-sufficiency, security, unemployment and infrastructural fronts – but pointed out that these challenges also represented enormous opportunities. These are challenges and opportunities, she added, that only Nigerians could fully comprehend, given their familiarity with the issues at stake. 


She expressed confidence that Nigerians were fully capable of proffering innovative and sustainable solutions suited to the environmental and cultural context of our people, albeit in close synergy with our external development partners. These challenges, she said, called for innovative, practical and sustainable solutions, arguing that if a critical mass of the best Nigerians applied their talents, expertise and experience to seek solutions to the challenges of the nation, they would make the country into what it inherently could become. 


She hailed the focus of the Convening, namely, to showcase the opportunities for investing in Nigeria, saying participants would do well not to lose sight of the imperative – and the opportunities – to use impact capital to do good and do well.




Speaking at the commencement of the 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing, Ana Vinambres (Head of Projects at GIZ Nigeria Competitiveness Project, NICOP), underscored the potential of impact investing (which she described as one of the most sustainable, cost-effective and flexible sources of finance for Nigeria’s development) to catalyze much of the investment required not just to recover from the pandemic, but also to mitigate the climate crisis, as well to actualize the Sustainable Development Goals in Nigeria. She saluted the IIF’s effort at raising awareness around the many possibilities of impact investing in Nigeria – via its Annual Convenings and other related engagements.  


Ms Vinambres reiterated the efforts of her organization, GIZ NICOP, in the creation of a conducive impact investment ecosystem as well as enhancing the capacity of state and federal investment promotion agencies tasked with attracting investments into Nigeria. GIZ NICOPs partnership with IIF and the Ford Foundation, she added helped set up the COVID-19 Impact Consortium, which aggregated the efforts of various stakeholders in response to the pandemic in the country – a collaboration that eventually birthed the Nigerian National Advisory Board for Impact Investing (NAB) that aims to mainstream impact investing in Nigeria. 


She called for the amplification of Nigeria’s many inspiring impact investing stories as a means to attract more impact investments into the country and urged the Nigerian government to make the requisite policy changes – such as eliminating potential challenges around foreign exchange rates and other exigencies, for example – to enable local and foreign investors alike to tap into existing opportunities in the country. She concluded by paying tribute to the late Innocent Chukwuma, who – as Regional Director in the Ford Foundation Office for West Africa – played no small role in mobilizing actions to promote impact investing in Nigeria, and whose dedication was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the National Advisory Board for Impact Investing (NABII) and Impact Investing Foundation (IIF).




SITUATING THE ISSUES (1):                                                                                                                     A POLICY PERSPECTIVE


On his part, Prof. Osinbajo, the Nigerian Vice-President who delivered the Keynote Address at the occasion also highlighted several issues that are worthy of consideration. Of these, three stood out:


–   The inherent limitations of big business in addressing social and economic inequities in the world, especially in low and middle-income countries such as Nigeria inclusive, the inability of many businesses in the Nigerian economy to produce jobs commensurate to their declared profits, their lopsided reward systems, and the need for more equitable and sustainable business models where businesses not only do well but do good as well. 


–   The FG’s leading role in the impact investing space, via private sector initiatives such as Farmcrowdy, a secure digital agriculture platform allowing investors to invest profitably, albeit remotely, in the agricultural sector; Andela, a technology company that recruits and trains local software engineers, connects them to the global talent market and generates jobs for young people; the Nigeria Green Bond, used to finance eco-friendly/eco-enhancing projects; and the Solar Naijaprogram, aimed at providing 5 million homes with electricity through solar home systems and mini-grids, among others; and 


–   The need to explore ways of incentivizing investments in the virgin space between non-profits, ESGs and for-profit entities, and to properly measure impact to assess what would constitute fair incentives to investors.


All the deliberations and engagements of the 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing simply went to underscore a basic truism whose full import is only now being realized – at least in the Nigerian context: It is eminently possible to do GOOD, and still do WELL, financially and otherwise. 




In their respective remarks and presentations, the Head of Projects, GIZ Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP), Ms. Ana Vinambres and the Nigeria Country Representative of the UNDP, Mr. Yahaya Mohammed, touched on a number of issues and trends currently impacting on the Nigerian impact investing space – for good or ill, as well as proffered solutions to areas of challenge, such as the following:  


–   The potential of impact investments to catalyze the investment required to meet most of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on both the local and international levels; 

–   The need for greater awareness around the many possibilities of impact investing in Nigeria, and the crucial role of bodies such as the IIF and NICOP, amongst others, in building capacity in this regard;  

–   The timeliness of the NABII’s birth and intervention in aggregating and mainstreaming the Nigerian impact investing space; 

–   The urgent imperative of collaboration among stakeholders, especially in the face of the profound and continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic – a health as well as a developmental crisis – and its impact on the Nigerian economy as a whole, and MSMEs in particular;  

–   The need to amplify Nigeria’s many inspiring impact investing stories as a way of attracting more impact investments into the country;


–   The need for crucial policy changes to ensure impact investing is mainstreamed, for the benefit of local investors;

–   The need to address barriers militating against Nigeria’s impact investing ecosystem on both the supply and demand sides – such as increased lending costs, limited financing options, and capacity gaps that make it difficult for entrepreneurs to meet investors’ requirements – in an accelerated manner.

–   The need to maximize the role of bodies such as the UNDP in enabling Nigeria’s recovery, to attract impact investors, address systemic issues around taxation as well as the regulatory environment and other constraints, provide thought leadership, facilitate synergy and remove bottlenecks that impede innovative financing; and to connect Nigeria to global opportunities.





No doubt, the dreaded coronavirus disease has had a devastating impact on our lives and livelihoods in the past two years. The nation’s economic and business landscape was not spared from the disruptions of this “once-in-a-century” occurrence that has sickened – and sadly, killed – too many in our country and across the globe. With the coming of the pandemic, many sectors of the Nigerian business and economic ecosystem were forced to put their activities, projects and projections on hold during a lockdown that turned out to be more traumatic than any of us had anticipated. 


But hope, as they say, springs eternal. Now that the first fury of the pandemic has abated somewhat, the business community is set to explode with renewed energy, ready to apply the lessons of the lockdown in the way and manner it conducts its affairs, going forward. The pandemic exposed the huge gap in food security, healthcare and socio-economic infrastructure in the country, and the utter inadequacy of efforts by both public and private stakeholders to bridge these gaps. It confirmed what the Human Development Indices put out by various international and intergovernmental agencies, such as the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, that the majority of the people of this country are still grappling with the most existential human needs – extreme poverty, disease and ignorance. They still lack adequate food, housing and sanitation – not to mention opportunities for upward mobility in terms of educational, employment and career goals. It confirmed just how far off the pace Nigeria still is in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


But it also opened up a vista of opportunities for involvement by impact investors desirous of adding value, both in the meeting of demand – with the assurance of good returns for their investments and making a huge difference in the quality of life and standard of living of people in their focus areas. For visionary and dynamic investors, it has been an epiphany, as can be seen from the increase in awareness and inquiries about impact investing from an unusually broad demographic and psychographic segment of the population.


The challenge now – as has been reiterated severally by knowledgeable and influential players in the impact investing ecosystem both in Nigeria and beyond, including during the course of the Panelist Sessions at the 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing– is how to bring together all the key elements, human and material alike (such as innovation, requisite skills, technology, as well as impact capital) in an effective synergy that ultimately expands the circle of opportunities, responsibilities and benefits in a way that not only ensures a complete recovery from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic but more importantly, erects the building-blocks of a long-term and sustainable economic growth built on wholistic prosperity and wellbeing for individuals, families, communities and the nation, as well as the protection and preservation of the natural environment.   


PART 2: IDENTIFYING AND UNLOCKING IMPACT                                                      POTENTIALS IN NIGERIAN ENTERPRISES


Creating a conducive environment for impact investments to thrive in an economy such as Nigeria’s, which is beset by many structural, policy and human development deficiencies – is no easy task. But there can be no denying the urgent imperative of doing so, as there is no alternative if the masses of this country, and the overall economy of the country, are to move from the doldrums of underdevelopment (with the inherent danger of restiveness – especially among disaffected youth – social discord, threats to public peace and even a state of anarchy) to the realm of steady and sustainable growth and progress in the shortest possible time. 


How then can such an environment be created? By identifying and unlocking impact potentials in Nigerian enterprises – including startups as well as conglomerates, and by positioning the ecosystem in such a way as to become a preferred investment destination for foreign investors and their capital. This was reiterated in eloquent and emphatic terms by the personalities that shared their insights and relevant data, during the 2ndndPanelist Session at the 2021 Convening. They also answered the key questions that engage the minds of aspiring entrepreneurs desirous of creating social impact while also creating wealth: 


Where is the money? 

Who has it, and where are they? 

How do I reach out to them, and connect effectively with them?  




Panel 1 – Catalyzing Nigeria’s Post-Covid Recovery with Impact Capital

Resolutions and Recommendations on Key Issues and Trends 


At the conclusion of the first-panel session which examined the topic: CATALYZING NIGERIA’S POST-COVID RECOVERY WITH IMPACT CAPITAL, the 5-man panel examined the role of philanthropic actors and intermediary agencies in enhancing impact investing in Nigeria, with a view towards the creation of an investment ecosystem where profit is measured not just in terms of economic gain but also in terms of social impact. 


They came up with the following observations and recommendations: 


–   There has to be a greater budgetary commitment to social sectors like health, education and financial literacy, inclusion and other sectors critical to meeting social needs and employment creation, and the importance of tracking the numbers as well as the profitability of ventures invested in and other KPIs.

–    All stakeholders must recognise the critical role of philanthropic partners in catalyzing risky social investments and mobilizing local capital. 

–   All stakeholders must also recognise the importance of identifying and developing quality investment pipelines, and greater awareness of impact investing on the demand side and matchmaking partnerships.

–    The granting of more tax holidays by the FG to impact investors is of paramount importance. 

–     Developing a framework that encourages investment in infrastructure projects is also critical.  

–    There has to be an optimal harnessing by the government of opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). 

–    The Panel emphasised the need to formulate policies that better protect investments and land assets.

–     The need for policies that strengthen the technology-enabled ecosystem.


Panel 2 – Identifying and Unlocking Impact Potentials in Nigerian Enterprises 




In the course of their deliberations, the panellists explored viable investment opportunities in Nigeria, gender dimensions in impact investing and perspectives on impact investing and measurement, and came up with the following recommendations:


–   The need for more clarity and disclosure in investment intent to counter the widespread assumption in some investment quarters that impact investing means below-market returns.

–   The need to address the challenge of arduous and time-consuming impact reporting requirements, the tendency on the part of investors to focus on outputs instead of outcomes, and the importance of engagement with investors on what is worthy of measurement. 

–   The need for suppliers of capital in favour of female-run investments, in the face of a staggering $42b financing gap between women-led and male-led enterprises, and a $15b commitment to finance women globally, which was made by the G7 (the Group of 7 most industrialised nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – in partnership with Development Finance Institutions (DFIs). 

–   More crucially, the need to find and support investable (not necessarily women) entrepreneurs, and to carefully assess if it is the investment story or commercial fundamentals that are driving their investments.

–   Beyond bridging the existing gender finance gap, the need for more people to make commitments along the lines of the 2X challenge, given the relatively low criteria bar.

–   The need to put basic tech infrastructure in place to aid efforts like the gathering and use of big data. 

–   Technology must focus on solutions that get businesses and industries to the next level of scale, such as in agriculture, where technology can be deployed in making improvements in the quality of seeds and fertilizers, more precision agriculture, drip irrigation methods that are less intensive on water resources and others, and 

–   The need for businesses, investors and entrepreneurs to embrace and incorporate even the most disruptive aspects of tech to remain competitive.


PART 3: THE FIRESIDE CHAT:                                                                                                                   DFIs and the Nigerian Impact Investing Ecosystem – Challenges and Opportunities


Since 2015, approximately $5bn has reportedly been invested in the impact investing space in Nigeria. Of this amount, about 80% was deployed through Development Finance Institutions (DFIs). While DFIs in Nigeria are the largest providers of capital, the typical kind of social entrepreneur seeking capital does not ordinarily have the means to access capital from these institutions. 


The Fireside Chat principally examined the role of a few selected DFIs such as Nigeria’s Bank of Industry (BOI), the African Development Corporation (AFC), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and their respective roles in Nigeria’s impact investing space and how they have created an impact.  


Bank of Industry (BOI)


As the foremost development bank in Nigeria, BOI focuses on innovative financing across investments ranging from energy and infrastructure to down-market investments in very small micro-enterprises that need micro-funding. Though it gets its funding from commercial sources, BOI also has a blend of funding in its portfolio that allows it to reach people and meet a whole range of financing needs in a sustainable manner. According to Toyin Adeniji, BOI is structured along with three main areas of engagement: Large Enterprises, MSMEs and Micro Enterprises, and frames its impact around the following areas: 


  1. 1.   Inclusion – being able to reach down to the bottom of the pyramid 
  2.   Geographic spread and reach across all local governments in the county
  3.   Financial inclusion, and
  4.   Vulnerability


BOI, she added, has taken major strides towards being very customer-focused, adopting technology to drive reach and measure impact, and defining KPIs with more clarity. In this respect, she said, the Nigerian development banking ecosystem would have to be strengthened, chiefly by promoting a better understanding of what the different development institutions do and fostering greater collaboration among them, as well as other key players. 


African Finance Corporation (AFC) 


The AFC, which is the 2nd highest credit rated entity in Africa, is a public-private partnership – which translates to being able to access capital at relatively cheaper rates and transferring those savings to investees. The AFC’s sector focus includes natural resources, power, transport, telecommunications, transport infrastructure and financial institutions, and it has so far deployed over $19b of investment capital in these areas in 35 African countries. 

AFC’s projects are selected based on the following criteria:

  1.   Commercial viability
  2.   Developmental impact using the ESG framework, and
  3.   AFC focus sector alignment


The criteria for AFC’s investments tend to be slightly higher, but the product suite includes advisory, project development, debt and equity investments. Also, to optimize impact, AFC investments encompass an entire value-chain, rather than as stand-alone interventions. Going forward, the organisation expects to take a lead role in realizing the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) in improving intra-Africa trade. Investments in healthcare infrastructure would also be in view for the bank. 


International Finance Corporation (IFC)


As the largest development finance institution globally, all of the IFC’s investments fall under the ambit of impact investing. However, the body does a mix of the larger infrastructure investments as well as smaller investments – usually done through financial institutional partners. It has a project development facility that provides advisory services to help entrepreneurs with good ideas. The IFC is constantly evolving for maximum triple-bottom-line impact.


United Nations Development Program (UNDP)


The development arm of the United Nations system, the UNDP is also the initiator and integrator of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to Amarakoon Bandara of the UNDP’s Nigeria Office, three strategic directions of change drive the organisation’s work:


–     Resilience building – building the resilience of people and societies

–     Structural transformation – promoting inclusiveness and innovation, and 

–      Leaving no one behind


As Bandara pointed out, partnerships between the UNDP and traditional DFIs already exist, except that the UNDP could additionally leverage its convening power to bring key stakeholders together to formulate and drive policies that allow DFIs to work more efficiently. The UNDP can partner with DFIs to develop business plans at the subnational level that can produce efficiency gains, forge stronger partnerships with the private sector and also deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria.  


Noting that the typical social entrepreneur in Nigeria who is seeking capital usually does not have access to such capital from DFIs, the Fireside Panel made the following recommendations to mitigate this situation: 

  1. a)   Build and enhance the resilience of people and societies;
  2. b)   Structural transformation – promote inclusiveness and innovation;
  3. c)   Leverage the convening power of DFIs to bring key stakeholders together to formulate and drive policies that allow DFIs to serve their target beneficiaries more efficiently;
  4. d)   Deepen financial inclusion in Nigeria;
  5. e)   Think like government but act like private sector players, and
  6. f)   Increase efficiency by reviewing process-oriented approaches.  


                                                CONCLUSION/CALL TO ACTION 


In closing, Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, Programme Officer at Ford Foundation, highlighted some of the key themes of the meeting while emphasizing the important place of policy advocacy to fill the policy gaps that currently present barriers to doing good impact investing work in Nigeria. He called on the Nigerian National Advisory Board on Impact Investing to take on a significant policy advocacy role, as it would be an important contribution to the impact investing space in Nigeria. He added that youth is an important population group (from the perspective of job creation) who could serve as catalysts of economic development, and asked that the youth question be looked at as the conceptual conversation is broadened.  


He ended by underscoring the three broad objectives of the 4th Annual Convening on Impact Investing as follows: 


(1)   The need for the conceptualization and measurement of impact investing from a Nigerian perspective;

(2)   The need to forge an inclusive approach towards impact investing that includes – but also goes beyond – gender to integrate other dimensions of inclusion, such as youth and socio-economic class; and       

(3)   The important place of policy advocacy to fill the gaps that militate against the effectiveness and efficiency of NABII and IIF in their bid to do good while doing well.



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