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RENEW Participates at the Wharton Club Africa 2016 Investment Summit

By Emily Ziethen | Sun Mar 20 2016
Last week, the Wharton Club of Africa hosted the 2016 Investment Summit and CEO forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to the WCA’s website, the event is a “premiere, global, and high impact Pan-African Executive Investment Summit” that features over 100 of the continent’s top investors, wealth managers, family offices and investors from 35 countries from across the globe.*
Matt Davis, CEO of RENEW, joined Africa’s “leading regional and international investors, executive game-changers, Ministers, industry titans, and award-winning entrepreneurs” with the goal of brainstorming, collaborating and delivering “game-changing” industry intelligence on investing, investment operations, financial returns, business leadership and development on the continent.*
The following are Matt’s takeaways from his time at the event and as a speaker on the entrepreneurial leadership and impact investing panel:
• I was impressed with the audience and speakers that the event attracted, which was a mix of investors and business people all interested or experienced in doing business and investing in Africa.
• The chemistry on our panel was great thanks to: 1) a diverse group of people with different philosophies about impact investing, 2) people who have actually invested on the continent, and 3) a great facilitator who had deep experience in the impact investment industry and knew how to steer the discussion.
• We also had a good audience that asked interesting questions: the most memorable being whether we had any investors reject a deal because the financial returns were too high - the audience member was working with an office that had rejected a deal on these grounds and they wondered if this was common. My response was that I personally had never experienced such a situation, nor had I heard of any investor rejecting an investment on the grounds that the financial returns were too high; however, this is an interesting problem in the impact investment space. As capital comes from a variety of sources (foundations, donor advised funds, private investment accounts, etc.) unique criteria arise that traditional investment managers may have not encountered before.
• I emphasized that those in the industry should be open to a wide range of definitions about impact investing, because the space needs to grow and mature. But, investors and their managers should still be clear about how they individually define their impact investment philosophy and approach.
• And, while a broad approach at the moment is appropriate, I also encouraged investors and managers to remember that in the end, impact investing is investing and needs to deliver a financial return. If the industry, which is garnering a lot of attention as of late, goes too long without these returns, we may see a correction; like what happened with the microfinance industry.
• I ended by saying that RENEW is more keen on Africa's economic prospects - specifically Ethiopia – versus the broader growth of the impact investment space. In the end, for RENEW and our investors, impact investing is filling a gap in financial markets in countries like Ethiopia, between microfinance and larger private equity, and addressing the problem of the “missing middle”.
Overall, I enjoyed the event and hearing the various perspectives from the fellow panelists. A special thanks to Aubrey Hruby, who chaired the panel. Aubrey is the Co-Founder of the Africa Expert Network. And to Lisa Lambie, who organized the whole conference.
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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