While we often think of investing as a personal practice with the objective of benefiting an individual or a family, the word "investment," at its core, is defined as "a devoting, using, or giving of time, talent, emotional energy, as for a purpose or to achieve something." As such, Impact investing addresses some of the most demanding challenges worldwide across a host of sectors including education, agriculture, housing, green technology and healthcare, thus refuting the notion that the world's most pressing issues can only be tackled by philanthropic donations alone. Many philanthropists and other non-for-profit entities are already spread thin, and impact investments fill a critical funding gap.
The good news is that impact investing - investments in entities and funds with the goal of generating quantifiable, positive social or environmental impact -- is on an upswing. The market had an estimated worth of $60 billion worldwide in 2014, and is expected to jump to between $400 billion and $1 trillion over the next five years. What's more, 22% of global-impact enterprises are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and much of the opportunity lies throughout the continent.
In East Africa, for example, economic growth within the region has been stable in the last decade and during this time, the region has seen the rise of wealthy individuals. According to Forbes, six of the ten new millionaires to watch in 2014 have emerged from the East African region (three from Kenya and three from Tanzania). In addition, Tanzania has the fastest-growing number of millionaires in the region, and the country takes the lead for the most newcomers (three) to the Forbes's "Africa's Richest 50 2013" list.
Many of these individuals - as well as investors, foundations and trust managers - are eager to tackle the substantial challenges that Africa faces, including poverty, infrastructure development and transport by making sizeable investments in companies dealing with such issues.
It is for these reasons - and several other compelling motives - that I recently co-founded LJ Africa Advisors (LJAA) with a multi-family office LJ Partnership, based in London, England. LJ Africa Advisors operates under a mandate to bring financial and investment expertise to the growing African market, while working with individual African countries to support their investment in key areas of opportunity such as power, infrastructure, oil & gas, telecommunication and affordable housing.
As a native of Ghana, this venture is in many ways personal. My partners and I are here to affect real change in East Africa and across the entire continent by facilitating major impact investing contributions that will further boost the African economy and mitigate obstacles in the way of a better tomorrow.
Chances are that impact investing is happening all around you. You may not realize it, but a bridge under construction could have been made possible by impact investments - or a new school, a new water filtration system, a wind farm. The possibilities are endless. But one common thread remains the same: The heart of impact investing is about beneficial social or environmental impact that goes beyond any one individual. It is not a practice for personal gain but rather for the greater good of communities, the world and everything in between. After all, let us never forget the the official definition of an investment: "A devoting, using, or giving of time, talent, emotional energy, as for a purpose or to achieve something." Let's keep this momentum going. Our world will be better for it.