In areas where resources and infrastructure are scarce, a few key investments can elevate the entire economy. In this episode, find out how the IFC’s education and healthcare portfolios are impacting Global Goals 3 and 4 in Africa.
- 2:00 How the IFC works | Investing in profitable AND sustainable ventures
- 12:30 What kinds of investments does the IFC do in Africa? | How the IFC impacts a whole ecosystem with $5 million+ investments.
- 18:00 Healthcare & Education | How the IFC supports these two critical impact areas in Africa
- 21:00 Medtech & Edtech | Technology can bridge the gap for off-grid families to get fully accessible, standardized education
- 26:00 Challenges to Scale in an Emerging Market | Kenyans value education, so the challenges of resources and infrastructure create opportunity for innovation.
- 28:00 Measuring Impact | Standard and case-by-case metrics for impact investing
- 35:00 Business in Africa | An invitation to do business in Africa
Senior investment officer Ananya Sengupta works with the IFC Sub-Saharan Africa division. The International Finance Corporation is part of the World Bank group, and they are committed to partnering with the private sector to end extreme poverty and increase shared prosperity.The IFC has invested more than $25 billion in African companies to help their partners overcome the financial, operational and growth challenges of business development.
We’ll see how the IFC measures impact in this episode, and how the healthcare and education industries are developing in Ananya’s point of view.
Investing in Profitable AND Sustainable Ventures
“We must be able to offer something that the market cannot offer,” Ananya say, like expertise, advice, or specific kinds of loans. IFC is a for-profit group that is proving that investing in emerging markets can be profitable.
“For any economy to grow, it’s not only the government that needs to invest but the private sector that needs to invest too. They will only do that if they see that it’s sustainable. So that’s what we do.”
Ananya talks about working in the health and education team with the IFC, then moving into a portfolio team for investments. Her portfolio group has more than 150 businesses, and she specifically manages about 40 companies. “We monitor the portfolio, the quality, the trends, and also at an individual level. After we’ve dispersed money to a company and it comes into our portfolio, we give the company a credit rating.” She talks about her job in creating the reports on those companies to ensure the quality of her portfolio.
What kinds of investments does the IFC do in Africa?
Ananya talks about the different industries and countries that they are involved in. She says they work with investments above $5 million, “because we believe in having the biggest bang for the buck. Our philosophy is to work with bigger companies that have a bigger impact on their whole ecosystem. This way we can impact a whole ecosystem of companies around the one we invest in.”
“We’re seeing a lot of medical tourism because Kenya’s becoming a center of excellence in healthcare. …But even though Kenya is strong in the region in healthcare, the cost is expensive. So many Kenyans go to South Africa or India for healthcare.”
Large parts of the population still don’t have access to affordable, quality healthcare services. Ananya says that the competition will help address those issues, as more and more companies arise from the market.
The investments that the IFC does in education are some of the smallest in their portfolio, and “they meet a very real need… in areas where there are just not enough public schools.” She describes schools that are run by one or two people out of someone’s garage and the opportunity for corporate alternative schooling companies to come in and provide quality education.
She talks about higher education as well, which includes technical and vocational universities.
Medtech & Edtech
Technology can now address problems like:
- Lack of teachers
- Lack of infrastructure
- Access to a school
- People living off of the energy grid
- Education quality
- Standardized curriculums
Ananya says that kind of technology is critical for Africa, from providing content and services that have never been available but also to increase engagement in education in Africa.
Challenges to Scale in an Emerging Market
Here are the main challenges Ananya mentions:
- Lack of electricity (though there is internet)
- Lack of resources and curriculum
- Lack of teachers
- Allowing remote access to a class they need
The opportunity, Ananya says, is that in Kenya education is very prized. People are willing to pay for their children to go to school.
Ananya’s portfolio group agrees on impact metrics that they will use to choose a company. Some of the Metrics the IFC looks for are:
- How many female employees do you have?
- What are the learning outcomes (for education)?
- ROI over time – infrastructure metrics vary, and are specific to each company
- How much business has this company given to SME’s (Small to medium sized businesses)?
Leap Frog to Africa
In Africa, you don’t have to go through all the pains of developing infrastructure because the market is ready for up to date innovation. For people who are willing to take that risk “there is a huge opportunity to make money and to make a real difference to the people here.”
- The IFC has taken a long-term stand to prove impact investing is profitable, and have created thousands of jobs.
- If you have a business with traction, head to IFC.org to get connected and see what work they have done for good.