Forum to highlight impact investment opportunities in Mena region

Aim of the event is to inspire the private sector to invest in sustainable ventures

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Innovate4Good, a marketplace that connects impact-driven start-ups and entrepreneurs with socially responsible investors, is organising an online Impact Investment Forum on March 24 and 25.

The event will be attended by angel investors, venture capital firms, institutional investors, family offices, technology start-ups, entrepreneurs, incubators and accelerators.

"The purpose of this forum is to create a platform to bring together like-minded and socially responsible thought leaders and impact-driven policymakers, investors, family businesses and entrepreneurs from the UAE and the wider Mena region," Ara Fernezian, founder and chief executive, Innovate4Good, told The National.

We want to drive the impact-driven conversation to inspire the private sector to be more involved and invest in impact-driven ventures

“We want to drive the impact-driven conversation to inspire the private sector to be more involved and invest in impact-driven ventures to help accelerate Mena’s impact entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in ways that can change the landscape of investing and enable positive growth.”

Global assets focused on environment, social and governance criteria are on track to exceed $53 trillion by 2025, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence report. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated impact investment to more than $700 billion last year from $500bn in 2019, according to the Global Impact Investing Network.

“The reason for this growth in impact investment was mainly because of healthcare, education and agri-food related technology investments,” Mr Fernezian said.

However, the Mena region is still at an early stage of adopting impact investing strategies in investor portfolios and accounted for just 2 to 5 per cent of the global $710bn impact investment market in 2020, he said.

Other industries such as oil and gas and real estate still attract the bulk of all investments in the region, Mr Fernezian said. He highlighted how the UAE can play a significant role in creating a hub to attract international impact funds to support regional entrepreneurs.

“The United Nations’ sustainable development goals are off track globally. This is because only governments are pushing the agenda without help from the private sector. Family businesses and institutional investors need to be engaged as well,” he said.

Money managers are also facing greater pressure from investors, regulators and activists to direct capital toward business and activities that support a greener and fairer society, Mr Fernezian added.

The free-to-attend forum is being hosted by Stratecis in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Global Market, Israel-based accelerator Tech4Good and Middle East Venture Capital Association. More than 200 delegates are expected to attend the two-day forum.

The event will feature 20 speakers from the UAE, Israel, Singapore, Germany and South Africa. Speakers include Juma AlHameli, senior executive director, strategy and business development at ADGM; Sonia Weymuller, founding partner of VentureSouq; Saurabh Gupta, co-founder of Vistas Media Acquisition Company (a Nasdaq-listed special purpose acquisition company); and Mohamed Al Dhaheri, executive chairman of rainMKRS.

Speakers from Israel include Omri Boral and Nir Shimony, co-founders of Israel’s largest impact-driven accelerator Tech4Good, and Ran Grodecki, managing director of Bridges Israel, the country’s largest angel investment firm.

Some of the themes that will be discussed during the forum include: readiness of the Mena region in impact investing, role of special purpose acquisition companies in sustainability financing and women’s role in impact investing, among others.

Innovate4Good is also organising a pitch day on March 25 for eight impact-driven start-ups working in education, agriculture and health technology sectors to pitch their ideas to impact investors and raise funds.

Four start-ups participating on pitch day are from Israel, three are from the UAE and one is from Finland. They are mostly in their late seed stage and series A stage of funding, Mr Fernezian said.

The investment firms include VentureSouq, Global Ventures, Rainmkrs, The Catalyst accelerator from Masdar, Raed Ventures and Fortunis Capital.

Innovate4Good has helped start-ups in sectors such as BioTech, HealthTech, AgriTech, EdTech, sustainability and financial inclusion to raise up to $5 million by collaborating with incubators, accelerators, governments and corporations around the world.