The number of foreign direct investments (FDI) projects into Africa increased by 6% in 2015, according to the FDI report 2016. Africa also recorded 156 more FDI projects than the Middle East in 2015, a figure that has widened by 98% compared with 2014.
These foreign investors, foundations and trust managers are through their investment addressing significant challenges that Africa faces in respect of poverty, infrastructure development, healthcare, education and transport by supporting companies dealing with these issues on the continent. Initiatives in these sectors are considered to be viable impact investment opportunities, and investors are seeking them out. Impact investments are those investments that provide a measurable social or environmental impact, as well as a financial return.
Much of the work in impact investing markets is starting to look at how money invested in social and environmental good could be allocated in a way that uses data to determine the effectiveness of programmes and institutions. One of the innovative financing mechanisms to emerge from this process is the Social Impact Bond.
A Social Impact Bond (SIB) is a financing contract designed to drive commercially sustainable social outcomes. The bonds work by attracting socially motivated investors to fund social services up front. Repayments to investors are then made by government and/or private funders if pre-agreed outcome targets are achieved. SIBs enable governments and donors to allocate resources more effectively to address societal challenges particularly in the face of fiscal austerity, by way of public-private collaboration.
The use of SIBs stands poised for considerable growth in Africa. The magnitude and speed of this growth depends on the extent to which African governments create an enabling environment through policy. In this regard, South Africa has a relatively established social investment market, albeit small by international standards, facilitated to some extent by Regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act, an example of how policy can be used to leverage institutional investment towards social outcomes.
Regulation 28 is the prudential investment regulation that governs how and where South African pension funds can invest, and it obliges pension fund trustees to consider environmental, social and governance factors in pursuit of a sustainable returns policy. It expressly incentivises institutional investment into the rest of Africa. Similarly, there are regulations in several African jurisdictions that allow, even compel, domestic pension funds to invest in other African countries.
Larger African institutional investors are quite familiar with other initiatives to strengthen awareness and implementation around ESG and responsible investing, for example, the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), the closely aligned Code for Responsible Investment in South Africa (CRISA) the Responsible Investment Ownership Guide for Pension Funds in Southern Africa published by the Sustainable Returns for Pensions and Society initiative in 2013. Zimbabwe also introduced responsible investment codes recently and Kenya implemented its stewardship codes last year. The King Code IV has also placed emphasis on corporate social responsibility and has referred to CRISA.
The regulatory environment in South Africa has arguably led to the increased interest from foreign foundations, looking to invest or create investment opportunities in projects in South Africa and to expand them into Africa. These projects involve many industries, (although we have seen particular enthusiasm in the healthcare and agriculture sectors), with the need for legal advice on all levels. Exchange control rules often have to be adhered to, when the funding initially enters South Africa, and for any subsequent investment abroad. These constraints dictate the structure of the deal and the flow of funds and make legislative advice a pre-requisite.
Foreign investors also frequently look for partnerships with local companies that have the expertise, the location and the know-how to address socioeconomic issues. In South Africa, the obstacles faced by load shedding as a result of energy capacity issues, for example, have given rise to many businesses offering renewable energy and solar energy solutions – which in turn offers more ESG friendly investment opportunities for local institutional investors.