MINT Condition: Impact Investing Leads the Pack in the New Emerging Economies
By Marta Maretich
BRIC, CIVETS, MIST: The world of finance loves a catchy acronym almost as much as it loves a new set of emerging economies, ripe for investment.
Recently the talk has been all about MINT, a grouping of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, economies touted as the new powerhouses of the global marketplace. According to Jim O’Neill, the man who identified the successful BRIC grouping, MINTs are hot this year, offering attractive investment opportunities in lively, fast-growing markets.
As financial advisors worldwide race to download country reports from the Economist Intelligence Unit, impact investors and development finance specialists can indulge in a moment of self-congratulation. While mainstream investors may not have taken the MINTs seriously until now, a good number of social benefit investors already have financial commitments; and solid track records; in these countries. A snapshot of the sector shows the depth and breadth of the impact and sustainable investing activity already happening in the MINTs.
IGNIA, a venture capital firm based in Monterrey, Mexico, supports the founding and expansion of high growth social enterprises serving communities at the base of the socio-economic pyramid. Established in 2007, IGNIA’s portfolio has grown to include a diverse range of businesses offering everything from high-quality eyeglasses and affordable financial services to core infrastructure, such as water grids and housing, to poor communities. IGNIA’s aims are in line with the impact sector’s; to serve these communities while returning an attractive profit to investors; and their track record demonstrates that this is do-able.
This long list of organizations investing in Indonesia, courtesy of the AVPN, shows that social investors have been awake to the potential in this Asian economy for some time. Respected impact investors, like LGT Venture Philanthropy, have been offering support to entrepreneurs in Indonesia for years, while many green and social benefit enterprises are scaling up their operations in the country: Blue Life makes aquatic greenhouses for sustainable food production; Oryza Lestari manages resin-producing agarwood forests ecologically. Both are currently seeking funding in the global impact markets to grow their businesses in Indonesia.
Tony Elumelu and his charismatic brand of “Africapitalism” are taking Nigerian impact and sustainable investing markets by storm. The massive fund he established with the Rockefeller Foundation has the potential to catalyze investment in the country; and transform the lives of its poorest citizens, provided it’s deployed using proper metrics to guage impact. Other investors, like Leapfrog Investments, have already shown the value of investing in this populous country. Leapfrog’s Nigerian insurance business, ARM Life, provides affordable financial services, including life insurance pensions and retirement planning, to a young, rapidly growing, and underserved market of Nigerians.
In contrast to the rest of the MINT grouping, Turkey is something of a new frontier for impact and sustainable investors. So far, there are few Turkish examples of impact enterprises and only a few funds placing capital specifically in sustainable, green or social Turkish businesses. Yet the impact and social investing sector has been busy in Turkey doing the sort of essential groundwork that opens new markets. With support from the Impact Investing Policy Collaborative (IIPC), Anja Koenig conducted pioneering research into the social impact marketplace in Turkey. Her work has raised awareness of opportunities in the country and paved the way for policy changes that will remove obstacles to future investment; just in time for Turkey to become the new darling of global investors as the T in MINT.
Mainstream finance may be all aflutter with excitement about the MINTs, those promising new kids on the world economic block. Yet in the social benefit investing sector, we’ve known about them for years; decades in some cases. More importantly, we’ve helped them build the markets that are now so famously taking off. And we will continue to do this, especially those parts if the market that often get overlooked in a boom: those serving the poor and marginalized at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid.
Fads come and go in finance just as they do in fashion. Next year, there will doubtless be another grouping of “it” countries with another clever acronym; it’s the sort of story that drives the trade. However, really building businesses, markets and prosperity in emerging economies is something that takes long-term commitment, commitment that the impact sector has already demonstrated; and will go on demonstrating long after the craze for the MINTs is a memory for mainstream investors.
For more on the MINT countries, listen this excellent series of programs by Jim O’Neill aired on BBC radio 4.
To find live deals in all of the MINT countries, log in to Maximpact.com.
Image credit: 123RF