Driving Impact Investment in the Pacific Islands
5 July 2017 at 8:39 am
While impact investment in the Pacific Islands is still in its infancy it is fertile ground for Australians to drive social impact outcomes, a new leader in the field has said.
Pacific Trade Invest Australia, a DFAT-funded agency that creates jobs and and attracts impact investment in the Pacific Islands, has appointed Carolin Leeshaa, the founding director of The Social Investment Collective, to lead its impact investment division.
With a background in finance, shared value and social investment across banking, corporate and the social sector Leeshaa told Pro Bono News she was excited to combine her passion to create positive social impact with her finance expertise.
“I see a great opportunity for impact investment in the Islands to bolster the economy from a grassroots level. When local businesses and workers really thrive we see money flow back into the economy,” Leeshaa said.
Leeshaa said impact investment was in its infancy in the Pacific Islands.
“Traditionally philanthropy and grants have been a large part of investment in the Pacific so there is definitely fertile ground for impact investment. That is the exciting part for me to bring the private field into the international aid arena and lessen the dependence of aid by emerging markets,” Leeshaa said.
The Pacific Islands are one of Australia’s biggest foreign aid dependents, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spending $129.3 million on foreign aid for the region in 2016–17.
“Impact investment can really drive sustainable economic growth and value chains in sectors such as sustainable agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, manufacturing, renewable energy, eco-tourism and microfinance,” Leeshaa said.
“If you really help drive those small and micro industries to embrace sustainable business models and empower them to become independent and less dependent on international aid I think it is the greatest achievement impact investment can bring to those market-based opportunities.”
Leeshaa has just returned from the Pacific Islands where she has been meeting with local partners on the ground and scoping some of the existing social enterprises.
“We will be working very closely with local business establishing what their financial needs are and what terms and conditions are and what their future aspirations are and at the same time looking at the supply side of the market and work with international investment funds and consultants that can bring the technical and business expertise to the enterprise,” she said.
To date PTI Australia has facilitated two impact investments including $656,000 in Vanuatu’s Tanna Coffee in April 2017 and $80,000 in Samoa Coconut Cluster in November 2016.
Leeshaa said going forward PTI Australia would focus in particular on women-owned or managed business across the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.