RIN and Acumen Partner to Spur Refugee Lens Investing in the Greater Horn of Africa with Support of International Donors

December 3, 2021 – The Refugee Investment Network (RIN) and Acumen have partnered with the IKEA Foundation, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to build the field for ‘refugee lens investing’ (“RLI”) in the Greater Horn of Africa.

The partnership will develop an evidence base to mobilize finance and explore how catalytic capital can advance climate resilience, refugee self-reliance, and social cohesion between those displaced and their hosting communities in the Greater Horn of Africa. 

The project aims to identify concrete approaches to financial innovation and investment strategies to advance social and economic integration of forcibly displaced people within their communities. It will also help bridge labor gaps and build a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Greater Horn of Africa that will generate dignified work opportunities for forcibly displaced people (FDP) and their host communities.  

The initial 12-month research and roadmapping ‘phase 1’ of the project has kicked off with market assessments underway in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. In 2022, Acumen will launch a Refugee Lens Venture Accelerator to enhance the investment readiness of a cohort of entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures that meet the refugee lens criteria. 

Refugee Lens Investing (RLI) is the practice of intentionally investing in companies that are improving FDPs’ lives by supporting companies owned and or led by FDP; companies whose products and services support FDP and or their hosting communities; and investing in lending facilities or equity funds that target these companies. Developed by RIN and its members, this first-of-a-kind refugee investment taxonomy provides investors with a lens to assess and qualify prospective and historical deals as refugee investments. 

The number of FDP worldwide surpassed 80 million in 2020, the highest number in history. If current trends continue, the total number of FDP will increase to over 300 million by 2030. Over one-third of FDP live in Africa. 

Despite recently being home to four of the world’s top-ten fastest growing GDPs, the Greater Horn of Africa is characterized by widespread socio-economic disparity and growing hardships. The negative impacts of COVID-19, conflicts, and escalating climatic shocks have further exacerbated complex dilemmas tied to the long-term forced displacement of people across the region.

Given the scale of the challenge, humanitarian actors alone cannot address the forced displacement crisis. Globally, the gap between humanitarian needs and funding made available is increasing. Moreover, humanitarian efforts—while critical—often do not address the longer-term, systemic challenges around employment, economic opportunity, and self-reliance.

In Africa, providing durable financial solutions can help unlock the potential of FDP, promote self-reliance, and engage the private sector. Now, more than ever, innovative financial solutions to the current displacement crisis are needed to catalyze investment and help build this new field of impact investing. 

The Refugee Investment Network (RIN) is the first impact investing and blended finance collaborative dedicated to creating long-term solutions to global, forced migration. RIN conducts research, educates and advises clients on how to successfully build and implement durable refugee-lens investing strategies worldwide. With deep expertise and a growing set of partners in Africa, RIN will deliver high impact, scalable interventions that benefit FDPs on the continent.

Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty. They invest patient capital in inclusive, early-stage social enterprises that serve people in poverty and enable them to transform their lives. They share our ethos, principles, and practices to train the next generation of leaders through Acumen Academy. They scale the most effective solutions to systemic poverty through for-profit, returnable impact funds, managed by Acumen Capital Partners, totaling more than $150 million. Founded in 2001 by Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen has invested more than $137 million in 139 companies across Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the United States.

The IKEA Foundation is funded by INGKA Foundation, owner of the Ingka Group of companies. The IKEA Foundation is independent from the retail business with a sole focus on creating brighter lives on a liveable planet through philanthropy and grantmaking. 

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is Switzerland’s international cooperation agency within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).