The MIF is counting down to Foromic 2012. Foromic has long been the leading conference on microfinance and microenterprise in Latin America and the Caribbean, but in recent years its focus has broadened and now includes small and medium enterprise finance, financial products for poor and unbanked populations, and impact investment.
This year, Foromic has a special island flavour, as it is being held for the first time in an English-speaking Caribbean country, Barbados. We see this as an excellent opportunity to showcase our work in the Caribbean—both in supporting access to finance in general, and specifically our initiatives to promote impact investing in the region.
A few months ago, we published a paper in partnership with Compete Caribbean. This study, “Supply and Demand Side Assessment of Impact Investment within the Caribbean,” is the first paper commissioned on the state of the Caribbean’s impact investing sector. It finds that, while there are disadvantages to be overcome (such as the island countries’ relatively small populations), impact investing is already taking place there. Besides the multilateral development banks like the MIF/IDB, private impact investors such as Leopard Capital, Portland Private Equity, Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, and the Calvert Foundation are actively pursuing opportunities in the region. The study highlights specific areas with potential for scalability for impact investors, such as energy efficiency in Barbados and Jamaica; and agribusiness in Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Dominican Republic. It also classifies actual opportunities in terms of investment readiness.
Complementing this research, the MIF is working towards building an enabling environment for impact investing in the Caribbean. One major effort is a $277,000 grant to the Development Bank of Jamaica, which will help fill in the gaps in the ecosystem needed to launch a venture capital industry in that country. The plan is first to conduct a market assessment identifying the elements needed to launch a sustainable VC industry that will support both small business start-ups and established companies in need of capitalization. The assessment will then guide the development of a strategic plan, which will include recommended legislative and tax changes needed to support a Jamaican Venture Capital Program.
In addition, together with the International Finance Corporation and the Dutch development bank, FMO, the MIF is a key equity investor in the Leopard Haiti Fund, the first VC fund dedicated to Haiti, which will support dynamic small firms with prospects for strong social impact in their communities. See my colleague Susana’s recent blog detailing some of the small businesses she and I visited around Port au Prince—firms that are already creating jobs, attracting tourist dollars, and otherwise stimulating the local economy.
Interested in hearing more? Make plans to be in Barbados Oct 1-3 for Foromic, where you can learn about impact investing in the Caribbean at a plenary discussion that will bring together several key players in the sector. You will also be able to network with entrepreneurs, investors, business executives, representatives from financial institutions and other experts of all kinds. And be sure to sign up for the MIF e-newsletter to receive regular updates about our events, publications and projects.