The recent decrease of official development assistance (ODA), caused by Ghana’s re-classification to a lower middle-income country1, posed significant challenges for social purpose organizations, such as social enterprises, hybrid NGOs or socially responsible businesses. Not only did this undermine their sustainability, it also hindered the required innovation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)2.
Yet, we must remain optimistic as new ways of unlocking private capital, such as, for example, impact investment3, have been on the rise. In this regard, impact investing is especially interesting for organizations that remain at the forefront of innovation aiming to address the multitude of development challenges our world is currently facing.
According to a study published by the Global Impact Investing Network, the total sum of impact capital that was invested in Ghana during 2005-2015 amounted to 1.6 billion US dollar4, which was about 0.27% of the total GDP at that time. This amount represented 25% of the total of 6.5 billion US dollar that was used for impact investing in West Africa. Nonetheless, it needs to be emphasized that the creation of a sustainable and appealing investment environment in Ghana would require further measures.
In this regard, several important questions remain unanswered.
- Which policies are required for the creation of a thriving and appealing impact investing environment?
- How are businesses, social enterprises and other hybrid organizations currently positioned for impact investing?
- What are the risks and opportunities for foundations and philanthropic organizations interested in investing in Ghana?
In order to reflect on these questions, the SDG Philanthropy Platform hosted Xavier de Souza Briggs, Vice President, Economic Opportunities and Markets at the Ford Foundation in an interactive session, organised on the 17th September 2018 in the conference room of UNDP Ghana. The majority of the participants were impact investors, government officials, foundations, philanthropic organizations and social enterprises, including the so called “Committed Coalition of Field Builders”5.
Throughout the discussion, Dr. Briggs linked impact investing to the achievement of the SDGs and emphasized:
"It seems right and appropriate for the United Nations and its many partner organizations to think about impact investing in the context of resource mobilization on a very large scale.”
In addition to this, Dr. Briggs stressed the need for “moving impact investing from being a niche activity or as something that is seen as existing on the margins, to the core of how the financial sector operates to account for a much wider array of risks”.
Using the opportunity, the Ford Foundation’s VP also shared some thoughts on the use of 1 billion US dollar endowment for the Foundation’s “mission-related investments”6. In this regard, the Ford Foundation will mostly work through intermediaries and will therefore not engage in direct private financing. In correspondence with the Foundation’s profound interest in financial inclusion, these intermediaries will not solely consist of the so called “big funds”.
Furthermore, the Ford Foundation is also committed to “field building”. An example of this intentionality is the support to the Global Impact Investing Network, one of the leading organizations advocating for this investing approach. Moreover, the Ford Foundation is collaborating with various leaders and different multinational actors in a wide range of countries, to develop an appealing investment environment and “ecosystem’” and thereby contribute towards a large-scale transformation.
Likewise, the Ministry of Finance of Ghana has truly embraced impact investing and considers it as an important approach towards the achievement of the SDGs. In this regard, Hilde Opoku, the SDG Advisor emphasized:
“Investing in the SDGs is about impact investment. It's an impact for both the people and the planet and reflects the policies that the government has in place".
For instance, the Government of Ghana has introduced the SDGs budgeting methodology which aligns policies and programmes with the accompanying cost allocations and ultimately aims at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
This initiative was developed in addition to a checklist of investible projects in cooperation with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre. Similar to this, business cases for investments in its flagship Industrialization One District One Factory (1D1F) Programme, planting for food and jobs among others have been developed. To create a market where foundations, private investors and entrepreneurs could tap into a wide range of investment opportunities, the Ministry of Finance has instituted the
SDGs Investment Fair to be held annually in September. However, the very first event will take place on the 5th of December of this year. It will showcase Ghana’s capital city of Accra as West Africa’s preferred tech and investment hub.
For many impact investors, commensurate financial returns are equally important in the reckoning towards a specific investment. Therefore, social enterprises, small and medium scale businesses, and hybrid organizations should make their value propositions more clear. While challenges, such as investment readiness of businesses, unclear exit strategies etc., still exist, the increasing dialogue and the multitude of available investment opportunities could be a major factor for attracting impact investments in Ghana.