Innovative finance is emerging as a powerful tool for harnessing private sector capital to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment but remains limited in its scale to date due to challenges inherent in innovation. Philanthropic actors can help overcome these barriers and play a catalytic role in enabling innovative finance to reach its true potential in creating gendered impact. Using three case studies of innovative financial mechanisms that are applying a gender lens across Asia, Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) illustrates how innovative finance can create gendered impact and how philanthropic actors can use their resources to support the development of such funding mechanisms.
The recent McKinsey & Company report ‘Impact Investing Finds its Place in India’ is an interesting read with some valid insights on impact investing in India. However, having been in the impact investing space in India for more than a decade, I have witnessed the pendulum of impact investing swinging away from India towards other high-potential countries of South and South East Asia and believe it is time to zoom into the new frontier markets which have proven strong economic growth with high impact potential.
Despite traction in gendered approaches to investment, women still represent an underutilized force for sustainable development and remain underserved in terms of access to capital, market linkages, and resources needed to improve their economic position. Closing the gender gap is not only a social imperative but also a key ingredient in fueling economic growth.
After four hours of bumpy drive into the hilly areas near Visakhapatnam, India, we reached our destination – an isolated village which was inaccessible by road until two years ago, and remains disconnected to grid power. Yet, utility poles with LED street lights, together with a solar system, are prominently placed across the village of 12 families. We were warmly invited by the village chief to visit his house. Surrounded by a group of villagers, he switched on the television and started describing the changes this solar energy system brought to the village.
Inclusion is a topic central to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to achieve the ambitious targets, it is essential for all people to become agents of change and contribute towards building a larger included society. Businesses, in particular, are crucial in creating innovative market-driven approaches that catalyze progress towards a future where no one is left behind.
IIX and the impact investing movement believes in creating a more inclusive world where financial systems, economic opportunities, and social good act as catalysts across geographies. To foster progress on this front and continue to be a thought leader, IIX has brought back its community-wide Impact Chat Series and congratulates its second cohort of international students from the IIX Impact Institute who recently completed their Executive Certificate Program.
IIX is excited to announce the closing of the $8 million Women’s Livelihood Bond (WLB)™ that will impact the lives of over 385,000 women across Southeast Asia. This innovative bond is the world’s first impact investing instrument with a dual focus on social and financial returns to be listed on a stock exchange.
The Northern state of Uttar Pradesh was described as dazzling cities surrounded by an inky black sea, in an Economist article titled “Out of the Gloom” in 2013. The vast gap of access to energy in India is symptomatic of the gap between these islands of prosperity amongst seas of paucity (Dreze and Sen, 2013), where conservative estimates suggest that 300 million people do not have access to reliable energy. The Government, at both the Central and State level, is trying to bridge this gap. During the presentation of the annual budget for 2017, the Indian Government has promised complete electrification by 1st May 2018, allocating over 48 billion rupees, or approximately US$ 750 million, towards electrifying rural villages in India.
In contrast to Government-led intervention, in the densely populated states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, a number of ‘Impact Enterprises’ have used market-based solutions to bridge the gap for the ‘Base of the Pyramid’ (BoP) through renewable energy. They range from those that provide lighting products, including Solar Home Systems, to small-scale Direct Current (DC) pico-grids to larger Alternating Current (AC) mini-grids. Each solution is relevant to a different aspect of the energy access ladder.