4 Key Takeaways From My Summer Internship in Impact Investing in Africa
This internship experience was supported by the INSEAD Hoffmann Institute Impact Internship Stipend.
I spent my summer internship in the Responsible Investing team of AfricInvest, based in Tunis, Tunisia, that looks after impact measurement and management in the company.
An investment and financial services company founded in the early 1990s, AfricInvest raised USD 2 billion across 21 funds and has invested in more than 200 companies across 35 African countries. As one of the most experienced private equity investors on the continent, AfricInvest has dedicated investment teams focused on Africa, and employs more than 90 professionals in 11 offices.
As an active promotor of the private equity industry in the region, AfricInvest co-founded the African Venture Capital Association (AVCA) as well as the Emerging Markets GPCA (Former EMPEA) and the Euromed Capital Forum.
While this year at INSEAD has been instrumental for me in discovering my path going forward, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to learn more about Tunisia (a beautiful North African country) and its culture while learning about Private Equity and the landscape of climate funds.
My key responsibilities were two-fold. First, conduct market research of climate funds for key private equity players across Europe, North America, and Asia to recommend guidelines for AfricInvest’s climate fund strategy. And second, assess and measure social impact of investees since AfricInvest’s investments in them.
As I reflect on my experience, there are four key takeaways that I would like to highlight:
1. Investments in Climate funds can drive change and generate financial returns at the same time.
AfricInvest invests in a wide range of industries with a high growth potential. The investment criteria focus not only in helping companies increase their revenue potential but also makes sure that the by-product and long-term impact of these investees aligns with AfricInvest’s core DNA – which is uplifting and developing Africa and making it globally competitive across all sectors and industries.
One of the examples of its investments in agritech is Aerobotics, which is helping farmers reduce their yield waste by providing insights for precision growing through drones and thereby optimising yields. It reduces wastes and optimises fertiliser usage while saving farmers' time and costs, it decreases environmental damage and increases employment opportunities. These employments increase consumer spending which further drives investments in other sectors and drives local economy.
2. Not just entrepreneurs and ideas but private equity and venture capital firms are also driving and supporting positive economic and technological changes.
Many times, Private Equities and Venture Capital firms are considered notorious for contributing to unaffordable prices in the market such as in real estate and squeezing customer pockets while making their investees profit rich even during uncertain times of the year.
However, my experience suggests otherwise. One of its portfolio companies, GoMyCode, is providing accessible, industry-relevant, and hands-on training on coding to students and professionals across Africa. It especially targets Sub-Sahara Africa where youth unemployment is highest in the continent.
And most importantly, my responsibility entailed building a strong business case for climate funds to raise money to combat climate change impacts by investing in existing and new technologies that reduce its impacts on weather, livelihood, and crops.
3. Africa has a huge economic potential to drive the world’s economy, but it has not been properly tapped yet.
While Africa is a large continent, the opportunities and scope to improve everything that currently exists in this world is even larger.
Countries like Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa are leading in technology landscape with companies such as Moove, MarketForce, and MFS respectively. Other parts of Africa, especially Sub-Sahara Africa present huge opportunities to explore natural resources efficiently, introduce climate friendly technologies, and educate youth effectively to help drive local economies while eradicating poverty.
The people of Africa are open to change, and they have the drive, knowledge, and education to drive the world’s economy in the next decade.
4. Tunisia is a beautiful country, and its people are even more beautiful.
Tunisia has one of the most spectacular beaches and waters I have ever come across. The weather is sunny and warm most of the time which makes it an ideal location not just for locals but for expats and foreigners to enjoy outdoors.
However, what struck me the most are the people of Tunisia. They are the most welcoming, warm, and friendly people I have ever come across in my life. While there are plenty of examples, I would like to highlight two such examples that I will remember for life.
First, my manager shortened her personal vacation time to help me clear immigration paperwork when she found out I had been missing key documentation at the airport. She stayed at the airport the whole time to make sure it was correctly completed, and personally picked me up from the airport.
Second, one of my co-workers took it upon herself to organise trips and tours around the local sites for me. She made sure I get the most authentic Tunisian experience. The whole team at AfricInvest has been extremely supportive, welcoming, and made sure I am part of the team at every decision.