Al Akhdar Bank and The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) in partnership with UNDP Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development and Al Maali organized a conference and a series of master classes on « Impact investing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A new chapter for participative Finance » on February 20th and 21st in Casablanca (Morocco). The event saw the participation of national and international experts in impact finance and was attended by more than a hundred national and international professionals.
The main takeaways from the conference, the master classes and the interactions with the participants are presented below:
- Closing the gap between finance and sustainable development
According to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 1.5-2.5% of the global GDP may be needed to finance the achievement of the SDGs in all countries. The public sector alone will not be able to close such important gap especially in developing countries. The active contribution of the private sector is contingent upon the availability of effective impact investing tools. Hence, there is clearly a timely opportunity for participative finance. It will allow the industry to clarify its genuine value proposition based on its core values, serve customers’ expectations and channel funds to address social and environmental challenges especially in OIC countries. In the context of Morocco where the government has an ambitious strategy in sustainable development, the need for financing is more than ever critical to achieve the set targets in energy, health, education, youth empowerment to name a few. It is true that flagship sustainability projects have easily secured financings (nationally and internationally), but this is not the case for most small and medium size initiatives.
- Leveraging conventional impact investing experiences
Participative impact investing does not need to start from a white sheet. In fact, impact investing has been successfully applied in various sectors (green energy, education, health, food…), in both developing and developed countries and with diversified financial instruments. Such a rich conventional impact investing experience has to be leveraged and, if needed, adapted to the participative finance requirements.
For instance, the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) has developed a toolkit designed to help investors navigate the landscape of impact measurement and management tools. This open source knowledge, which comprises systems, methods, data and indicators, can be easily used in the participative impact Investing context.
- Thinking globally and acting locally
Relying on international best practices is important but adapting them to the local context is critical. For instance, copy pasting a Malaysian social sukuk structure in Morocco may not necessarily work because the social, economic and legal contexts are not identical.
- Empowering Waqf through blended finance mechanisms
Morocco prides itself on its rich millennial Waqf heritage whether it be in education, health and poverty alleviation. Thereby, Waqf can definitely bring value to the impact-investing field. For example, directing cash Waqf funds (which is now possible under a new Waqf law) to support social entrepreneurs can generate a much higher social return compared to simple cash donations. Cash Waqf use include co-financing, subsidizing or guaranteeing equity investments.
- Building supportive ecosystems
The development of participative impact investing requires a supportive ecosystem that comprises assets owner (Participative finance institutions, high net worth individuals…), assets managers (investment advisors, government investment programs…), demand side players (social enterprises, cooperatives…) and service providers (consultants, auditors, research institutions…). Building the ecosystem will naturally take time but the industry has to start somewhere
- Embracing Fintech
It is hard to image the emergence of participative impact investing without a strong focus on technology. Today, technology provides tremendous possibilities to make financial services affordable, scalable, customizable and effective (smart phones, peer-to-peer platforms, Blockchain, artificial intelligence…). The recent Fintech initiative in the Moroccan market (Crowdfunding, Digital financial services…) are encouraging and it is fair to expect more traction in the near future.