Osinbajo makes case for impact investing to address inequalities, social benefits and profit

In the face of inequalities in wealth and opportunity worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, impact investing – an approach that integrates society’s social and environmental goals, can no longer be ignored, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo made the observation today in a keynote speech delivered virtually at the 4th Impact Investors’ Foundation Annual Convening on Impact Investing.

According to the Vice President, “glaring inequalities of wealth and opportunity in the face of poverty, misery and social alienation in any society is asking for trouble. Such a situation is neither sustainable nor wise.

“The sharp drop in standards of living caused by COVID-19-induced shocks to the economy have not only further deepened existing inequalities but pushed many more into extreme poverty.

“Neither governments nor businesses can afford to ignore the huge social disparities and environmental deterioration for long.

“So, impact investing is an eminently sound approach to balancing these inequities by catalyzing social and environmental impact for long-term structural change.”

He explained that “profit and sound social and environmental benefits can co-exist and governments can be facilitators of impact investment.”

Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “but because the logic of the profit motive as being the driver of innovation, wealth creation and growth is unassailable, the real question is how to ensure that it accommodates a moral compass.”

Advocating the growth of impact investing in Nigeria, the VP further explained that “a more sustainable business model is intentionally building into the profit-making objective, the means of attaining society’s social and environmental goals. The notion of doing well by doing good, or harnessing the forces of innovation, entrepreneurship, private capital to achieve both profit and social and environmental good.”

“Some of the current models of impact investing we are seeing are not only inspiring but also point in the general direction that policy and regulation should go,” the Vice President added.

Citing examples in both public and private sectors, the VP noted that “there is an opportunity for collaborative thinking between government, the impact investing community and other stakeholders on policy and regulations.”

The VP cited the example of a digital agriculture company, Farmcrowdy which has “a platform that allows individuals to securely invest in farms online, enabling them to participate in agriculture indirectly.

“The other is Andela, the highly successful technology company that recruits and trains local software engineers at little or no cost, who in turn work remotely for them in various global companies, thereby generating good-paying jobs for thousands of young people.”

The example in the public sector, the VP noted was in 2017 when the government launched the first Sovereign Green Bond in Africa and the fourth in the world.

“Proceeds of the bond as the name implies can only be used to finance for climate environmentally friendly or enhancing projects as approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).”

The Vice President explained further that “government’s action, in this case, was important because it took the risk of investing in a debt instrument in the locally and internationally uncharted waters of Environmental Finance. This is as it should be. A government bond is probably the one confidence-enhancing mechanism for encouraging climate finance.

“The second example of government leadership in impact investing is our Solar Power Naija programme. A major component of our Economic Sustainability Plan in response to the severe economic fallout of the COVID 19 pandemic.”

The Vice President then submitted that “there is a great deal that is possible in impact investing, but there is a long way to go from the relatively random investment landscape we have now to a more orderly space where government regulations and incentives are carefully worked out with stakeholders.

“The point in the spectrum occupied by impact investors between Not-for-Profit Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) and For-Profit entities is still essentially virgin.”

The Impact Investors’ Foundation was founded by the late Innocent Chukwuma and some other partners to promoting impact investment in Nigeria. Other speakers at the event include the representative of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Emeka Offor; the Chairperson of the Nigerian National Advisory Board for Impact Investing, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, and the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative, Mr Mohammed Yahya.

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