World’s largest gender-lens fund starts operating with new investment strategy to help address the USD1.7 trillion gender gap

June 2024: The Global Gender-Smart Fund (GGSF), the world’s largest gender-lens investment fund, has implemented a new strategy focused on gender-smart financing. This strategy aims to address the USD 1.7 trillion gender gap by providing responsible financial services to underserved women, women-owned, and women-led businesses in developing markets. It seeks to improve livelihoods, promote women’s leadership, and enhance gender balance within financial institutions.

Building on a successful 15-year track record, the Microfinance Enhancement Facility (MEF), initially founded in 2009, was transformed into the Global Gender-Smart Fund (GGSF) on 1 January 2024, introducing a new gender-focused strategy as well as a new structure.

Since MEF’s inception – originally intended as an emergency response vehicle to the global financial crisis – the Fund evolved and successfully provided liquidity to the microfinance sector across the developing world, focusing on low-income households and micro-entrepreneurs with average end-borrower loan sizes of USD1,700 and high outreach among women and rural populations. Over the past 15 years, the Fund has supported over 320 financial institutions across 65 countries, with an average loan size of USD3.5 million, reaching USD3 billion invested by end of 2023.

As the Fund transitions into its new mandate, Ruurd Brouwer, Chairman of the Board, explained: “The Fund’s founding shareholders, the Federal German Ministry for Economic and Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German development bank KfW (both as trusted for BMZ, but also investing its own funding), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Development Bank of Austria (OeEB), have been instrumental in defining the Fund’s new impact focus. The Board is looking forward to providing oversight and support to the world’s largest gender-lens investment fund, addressing the USD1.7 trillion gender gap through financial inclusion.”

“Since the Fund’s inception, the microfinance industry has matured and financial inclusion efforts have shifted,” said Tomasz Telma, Director & Global Head of the Financial Institutions Group at IFC. “The Fund’s new strategy to focus on gender-smart financing and to expand focus beyond microfinance to small enterprises as well is adapting to the current environment and also aligns with IFC’s priorities, including the focus on gender finance, which greatly supported IFC’s renewed commitment.”

The new strategy focuses on strengthening the provision of gender-smart and responsible financial services concentrating on underserved women as well as women-owned and women-led businesses in developing markets, thereby seeking to improve livelihoods, increase gender balance and outreach, and promote women’s leadership. Additionally, the Fund aims to improve gender equality at the level of the financial institutions themselves: On the one hand, by improving the gender-balance at senior level, on the other hand by improving working conditions for women. In this dual approach, the Fund aims to build on the 2X criteria, a global baseline standard for gender finance (2xchallenge.org/2xcriteria) and seek 2X Certification for its investees.

“As one of the initial shareholders, we have seen the Fund grow and adapt to the realities of the market, and the clear intention and additionality of this gender-smart strategy naturally led to OeEB renewing its commitment to continue supporting the provision of impactful financing in regions where it is most needed”, said Sabine Gaber, Member of the Executive Board of OeEB.

In order to support the Fund’s new mission, a technical assistance facility has been set up, with initial funding provided by the fund’s largest shareholder, BMZ. Such a facility will foster engagements with partner financial institutions on critical areas of improvement that are identified during due diligence, thus supporting financial institutions in designing and implementing a concrete gender-smart action plan.

Dirk Meyer, Head of Directorate-General Multilateral Development Policy; Transformation; Climate at BMZ indicated: “Germany remains a strong supporter of impact investment. The revised investment strategy of the GGSF sends a signal to the financial markets that there is the willingness and the opportunities to tackle the funding gap for women and female entrepreneurs in emerging markets and developing economies. The technical assistance facility is an important step to support partner financial institutions in strengthening their gender lens.”

Stephanie Lindemann-Kohrs, Global Head of Equity and Funds at KfW Development Bank emphasized: “We are very proud of the ambitious strategy that is being implemented with a very clear purpose: Building on a strong blended finance structure to tackle the funding gap faced by women in developing markets through innovative financing solutions”.

The Fund also attracted strong private sector interest, in particular from M&G Investments which has provided USD120 million in senior notes to support the growth of the portfolio.

Eoin O’Shaughnessy, Co-Head of Structured Credit Research at M&G Investments, says: “We are proud to be one of the largest investors in the Global Gender-Smart Fund – a unique and innovative vehicle that combines financial returns with social impact. By investing in financial institutions that empower women and promote financial inclusion, we are supporting the economic development and resilience of some of the world’s poorest communities. This investment also demonstrates how different parts of M&G can work together to provide our clients with access to a diverse and attractive range of opportunities across different asset classes and geographies.”

The new strategy and structure became effective as GGSF on 1 January 2024. Innpact Fund Management, the Alternative Investment Fund Manager (AIFM) in Luxembourg dedicated to impact finance, serves as fund manager and global portfolio manager. Innpact Fund Management is a 100% subsidiary of Innpact S.A. The sourcing, relationship management, and investment decision is conducted by three portfolio managers, Incofin, responsAbility and Triple Jump, all three leading impact investing specialists with extensive global experience. The technical assistance is provided through a streamlined process by a global consortium formed by NIRAS A/S and Women’s World Banking, both gender specialists with extensive experience in the implementation of projects supporting gender equality.

Patrick Goodman, Founding Partner at Innpact, reiterated: “The great collaboration of the different parties in the Fund – shareholders, investors, portfolio managers, service providers – is an impressive achievement and it is inspiring to see such great industry leaders coming together to serve a common impactful objective. We expect this evolution of the Fund will be transformational in addressing gender issues through financial inclusion thanks to the breadth of countries and financial institutions the fund invests in. The strong blended finance structure of the Fund, preference for local currency financing, and support from committed DFIs and donors, will enable additional private sector financing, allowing the Fund to grow and increase its impact on women in developing markets.”

Noémie Renier, Head of Debt at Incofin, said: “The Global Gender-Smart Fund is one of the most exciting projects we are working on. As portfolio managers, we are committed to improving access to essential financial services for women, supporting women entrepreneurs, and enhancing gender balance in the companies we invest in. Each investment is guided by a gender action plan with measurable targets, ensuring a substantial impact on closing the $1.7 trillion gender gap.”

About GGSF

You can learn more about GGSF on the website: https://ggs-fund.com/

Mumbai, June 10, 2024 – Arthan Finance, a leading Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) specializing in loans for self-employed nano and micro entrepreneurs, has raised INR 50 crores from marquee investors such as Incofin India Progress Fund and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, a returning investor. This fresh fund infusion will boost the company’s expansion and technological progress.

This funding round will help Arthan Finance grow its Assets Under Management (AUM), expand its geographic footprint, and invest in advanced AI and ML-based underwriting systems. These technological enhancements will improve the company’s ability to assess credit risk and tailor financial solutions for the unorganized sector, further streamlining operations and enhancing customer experience.

To date, Arthan Finance has raised approximately INR 83 crores. Previous funding rounds saw participation from the founders, angel investors, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

Kunal Mehta, Founder and Director of Arthan Finance, stated, “This funding is crucial for our next phase of growth. We are committed to enhancing our technological capabilities and expanding our reach to serve more micro and small enterprises in underserved regions. Our partnership with esteemed investors such as Incofin and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation reinforces our mission to drive financial inclusion in India.”

Arthan Finance currently operates in Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, providing growth capital to self-employed nano and micro enterprises in Tier II, III, and IV cities. The company has disbursed over INR 500 crores to more than 20,000 borrowers, with loan amounts ranging from INR 2,000 to INR 20 lakhs.

Pravash Dash, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Arthan Finance, said, “Incofin’s investment will unlock transformative growth for Arthan Finance in bringing tech-enabled & affordable credit to underserved Indian MSMEs. Our investors’ extensive experience in impact investing aligns with Arthan’s vision and will help us capitalise on immense market opportunities to reshape the MSME lending landscape in India.”

Aditya Bhandari, Partner and Regional Director, Asia Equity at Incofin, said, “Arthan has tremendous potential to demonstrate how social impact can be driven through an enviable blend of technology and inclusive financial services. We believe Arthan is well-positioned to be at the forefront of India’s digital-led MSME financing revolution.”

Geeta Goel, India Country Director, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, added, “Arthan Finance’s innovative approach combines operational excellence, community presence through phygital outreach and cutting-edge technology. Their AI and ML-based underwriting ensures efficient risk discovery and loan disbursement, catering to an acutely underbanked population of more than 11 million nano enterprises with an estimated credit demand of more than $50 billion The small businesses that Arthan is empowering represent a big opportunity for the future of India.”

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About Arthan Finance:

Arthan Finance provides financial support to underserved markets, fostering entrepreneurship, and driving economic growth in India. With over 17 lenders backing and more than INR 300 crores raised in debt, Arthan Finance is transforming credit access for small businesses and nano enterprises. The company is present across 35+ branches in Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.

Read more: (https://arthan.finance/)

About Incofin India Progress Fund (IPF):

IPF is a private equity fund (SEBI registered Category II AIF), established in 2021 to provide growth equity capital to promising entrepreneurs. The investment in Arthan is its fifth investment in the financial inclusion space.

Read more: (https://incofin.com/india/, https://incofin.com/)

About the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation:

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is dedicated to transforming the lives of children living in urban poverty around the world. With offices in Austin, TX, New Delhi, India, and Cape Town, South Africa, the Dell Foundation funds programs that foster high-quality public education and childhood health and improve the economic stability of the families we serve. To date, the foundation has committed $2.4 billion to global children’s issues and community initiatives to accelerate opportunity for families.

Read more: (https://www.dell.org/)

Chennai, 20 May 2024: International asset management companies Incofin and Maj Invest collectively invest USD 13 million in India’s leading rural financial services conglomerate, SAVE Group. The funding comes from Incofin India Progress Fund and Maj Invest Financial Inclusion Fund III K/s.

Established in 2009, SAVE has emerged as a trailblazer in India’s banking business correspondent (BC) network, serving over 25 million customers nationwide. Under the leadership of Ajeet Kumar Singh, Pankaj Kumar and Ajay Kumar Sinha, SAVE has diversified into a robust rural financial services conglomerate, extending its reach deep into rural communities.

With its extensive network, SAVE plans to expand its lending verticals through its wholly owned subsidiaries, providing microfinance loans, secured MSME loans and affordable Housing Loans.  

Maj Invest Financial Inclusion Fund III K/s previously infused approximately USD 3 million into Save Solutions, the Holding Company of Save Group in Mar 2024. Now, Incofin IPF’s investment of USD 10 million comes into SaGgraha Management Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of SAVE specialising in microfinance loans through the BC model sharing the commitment to empowering rural communities through improving financial access.  

Ajeet Kumar Singh, Co-Founder and Director of SAVE Solutions Private Limited, expressed enthusiasm stating: “We are delighted to partner with Incofin IPF and grateful for Maj Invest’s continuous support. Beyond strengthening our ability to expand our loan book, this infusion emboldens our pursuit of delivering high quality financial services in the rural underserved segment. We will benefit immensely from Incofin’s and Maj Invest’s global experience and value creation and eagerly anticipate our collaboration with them!

Siva Vadivelazhagan, Director at Maj Invest, comments “We are excited about the opportunity to invest in SAVE Solutions and recognize their potential to revolutionize rural finance on a large scale. Together, we aim to amplify the impact of financial inclusion initiatives, empowering communities nationwide.” 

Aditya Bhandari, Partner & Regional Director, Asia Equity, Incofin, emphasised how SAVE’s mission aligns with Incofin core values: “SAVE & SaGgraha’s commitment to providing accessible financial services to underserved populations resonates deeply with Incofin’s ethos. We are quite impressed with SAVEs diversified product offerings. It’s one of a kind in India. We are excited to partner with the group in its mission of inclusive finance to rural masses.”

As of March 2024, SAVE Group reported an AUM of ~INR 1,962 crores with 522 branches spanning 17 states, aiming to reach a Group AUM of ~INR 18,000 crores in the next five years.  At the same time, SaGgraha reported a BC AUM of INR 464 crores and Co-lending AUM of INR 546 crores (Managed for Save Microfinance) with 237 branches across 7 states, targeting an AUM of ~INR 5,000 cr in the next five years. 

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Notes to editors

About Incofin India Progress Fund (IPF): 

IPF is a private equity fund (SEBI registered Category II AIF), established in 2021 to provide growth equity capital to promising entrepreneurs. The investment in SAVE is its fourth investment in the financial inclusion space. 

About Maj Invest Financial Inclusion Fund III K/s: 

Maj Invest Financial Inclusion Fund III K/s is a global financial inclusion fund dedicated to fostering inclusive economic growth through strategic investments. 

About SAVE Group: 

SAVE Group is a leading rural financial services conglomerate in India, dedicated to providing accessible and high-quality financial services to underserved rural communities since its inception in 2009. 

Our flagship Incofin Climate-Smart Microfinance Fund (ICMF) has made its first investment: USD 2 million in Bank Arvand, Tajikistan.  

ICMF sets its focus on the social aspects of climate change. The fund invests in those who must address the impacts of climate change, even though they may not be the ones responsible.  

With Tajikistan, we see a relatively green country with hydropower electricity systems, yet the risks posed by climate change are real and imminent. 

Understanding Tajikistan’s Climate Challenges

Tajikistan’s environmental landscape presents a unique set of challenges. Rising temperatures, increased aridity, and the threat of flooding pose significant risks to both livelihoods and ecosystems. It is important that proactive measures are taken to mitigate these risks and foster adaptation efforts.  

Bank Arvand: Leading the Charge in Green Finance 

Bank Arvand stands at the forefront of green finance in Tajikistan. Founded with a mission to provide financial inclusion to marginalized communities, the bank has embraced sustainability as a core principle. When the CEO, Shoira Sadykova, visited our offices last week, we learned about how ICMF funds are being put into action, in the context of Bank Arvand’s journey.

Impact of the Incofin Investment 

The recent investment of USD 2 million from ICMF has catalyzed Bank Arvand’s efforts to scale up its green finance initiatives. By providing critical funding resources, the fund has helped Bank Arvand to expand its reach and support a broader range of climate-smart projects.  

Behind every loan is a story of transformation. Bank Arvand’s clients, from small-scale farmers to budding entrepreneurs, are leading the charge in combating climate change at the grassroots level. Through collaborative efforts and community-driven projects, these individuals are finding innovative solutions to environmental challenges, often securing group loans. 

There are stories of shared irrigation systems and eco-friendly production methods. There are businesses related to recycling, organic farming practices and water conservation projects. The impact of this investment is already being felt, promoting resilience and adaptation in the face of climate change. 

Looking Ahead: Scaling Up Sustainable Finance

As investors, we have a crucial role to play in supporting climate-smart activities. The Incofin Climate Smart Microfinance Fund (ICMF) supports initiatives that promote climate resilience and adaptation, empowering communities to thrive in the face of environmental challenges.  This could involve:

Financial and Non-Financial Services  

  • General Financial Services: Tailored financial solutions for families impacted by climate change.  
  • Climate Data Collection, Monitoring, and Distribution Systems: Building community resilience through early warning systems and strategic relocation initiatives.  
  • Migration Financing/Remittances: Support for individuals relocating to new, climate-resilient locations.  
  • Emergency Loans and Post-Disaster Financing: Swift financial assistance for recovery after adverse events, complemented by a dedicated program for post-disaster funding.  

Agriculture  

  • Climate-Resilient Agriculture Loans: Support for farmers with climate-resilient seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, smart irrigation systems, emergency shelter for livestock, soil rehabilitation, and training to enhance productivity while implementing sustainable agriculture practices.  
  • Crop or Index Insurance: Providing coverage for risks such as rainfall, drought, livestock, and yield fluctuations.  

Water & Sanitation  

  • Water Purification Loans: Funding for water purifiers, solar water pumps, rainwater harvesting, and wastewater relocation.  
  • Financing Water Businesses: Supporting companies engaged in portable distribution/kiosk setups, desalination, and other water-related ventures.  

Habitat & Livelihood  

  • Weatherproofing Home Loans: Financial support for weatherproofing homes against climate-related challenges.  
  • Roof Financing with Rainwater Collection: Assistance for the installation of roofs with built-in rainwater collection systems.  

Resilient Energy Systems & Transport  

  • Clean Energy Equipment Loans: Support for purchasing renewable energy equipment, including solar panels, clean cooking stoves, and micro-biomass power generators. Enhancing grid resilience.  
  • Leasing and Loans for Sustainable Transport: Facilitating income generation through electric vehicles, e-charging infrastructure, and batteries. 

By directing our investments towards these initiatives, we can contribute to building a more resilient and sustainable future for all. At Incofin, when we think about excellently managed female-led institutions, we start thinking about Bank Arvand. So, we are thrilled to see Bank Arvand as the recipient of the first investment from the Incofin Climate Smart Microfinance Fund (ICMF), and we look forward to many more impactful investments to come.  

  • The investment through the Water Access Acceleration Fund, a €70 million private equity fund.
  • Investment to improve safe drinking water access in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 
  • First fund investment by the Water Sector Fund, financed by the Netherlands and managed by the EIB.

The Water Sector Fund managed by EIB Global will provide €10 million in the Water Access Acceleration Fund (W2AF), managed by Incofin, a prominent global impact investment manager. W2AF is a “water-focused” blended finance impact fund targeting sustainable and scalable solutions that improve access to safe, affordable drinking water for underserved populations, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia. The new initiative will provide 20 billion litres of safe drinking water by 2030.

The €10 million anchor investment by EIB Global will secure other investments, attract more private investors to W2AF. Through the fund, EIB Global will support innovative water businesses.

Among the first partners to benefit from this equity support will be Rite Water Solutions, a company in India providing drinking water solutions and improving water quality in rural and urban areas of the country. More than 540 000 households are expected to benefit.

This support to W2AF represents the first fund investment by the Water Sector Fund, a trust fund established in partnership with the Dutch government and managed by EIB Global. With its donor financial resources, the Water Sector Fund develops drinking water projects in low- and lower-middle income countries and promotes the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

EIB Vice-President Robert de Groot remarked, “This investment showcases our joint commitment to enhancing access to safe, affordable drinking water for all. Innovative financial and technical solutions are needed. The W2AF is an excellent example, funnelling water investments to the regions that need it most and helping build the private water ecosystem in emerging markets in Africa and Asia. I extend my gratitude to the Dutch government for their vital support, making this impactful endeavour possible.”

Incofin Chairman Loïc De Cannière stated, “We thank the EIB and the Dutch Water Sector Fund for joining W2AF, together with our diverse investors from Europe and the United States. W2AF is a pioneering, first-ever equity impact fund for the drinking water sector in the Global South. Incofin aspires to make the impact of this fund a success, and an example for other investors. By doing so, it will pave the way for more water funds, helping millions of people around the world access drinkable water, which is a key Sustainable Development Goal and a fundamental human right.”

Cees Bansema, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Luxembourg, explained, “Access to safe drinking water is a human right and critical for social and economic development. This investment in W2AF shows how cooperation makes water projects more sustainable and inclusive. It is also a great example of how we can mobilise additional funding from other financiers or investors. It is a flagship operation of the Dutch-funded Water Sector Fund — combining the Netherlands’ continuous commitment to addressing global water challenges, the EIB’s extensive experience investing in water worldwide, and fund manager Incofin’s unique track record in impact investments.”

Background information

EIB Global is the EIB Group’s specialised arm devoted to increasing the impact of international partnerships and development finance outside the European Union. EIB Global is designed to foster strong, focused partnerships within Team Europe and as part of the EU Global Gateway strategy, alongside fellow development finance institutions and civil society. EIB Global brings the Group closer to local people, companies and institutions through our offices around the world.

The Water Sector Fund is an EIB-managed trust fund established in 2017 in partnership with the government of the Netherlands. It focuses on water sector projects in low- and lower-middle income countries, supporting universal access to water supply, sanitation and hygiene. The fund is open to contributions from other donors seeking to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation for all.

Incofin Investment Management is an impact investment fund management company for the Global South. It is headquartered in Belgium and has offices worldwide. It focuses on investments in financial inclusion, agri-food businesses, and safe water companies, with assets under management of €1.3 billion. Its investor base comprises development banks, institutional investors, family offices and private individuals.

Press contacts  

EIB: Olga Sushytska, o.sushytska@eib.org, +352 691 289 108

Website: www.eib.org/press — Press Office: +352 4379 21000 — press@eib.org

Incofin: Shonan Kothari, shonan.kothari@incofin.com, +32 489 25 08 11

Website: http://www.incofin.com/

Incofin Foundation, with financial support from IDB Lab, has launched an Innovation Call ‘Advancing Digital Innovation for Smallholder Farmers in Latin America’. The Innovation Call is hosted by GSMA, the technical partner for this initiative. Entities offering solutions that utilize agricultural technologies and digital tools (agritech) to meet the needs and potential of smallholder farmers are encouraged to apply.

The Innovation Call will identify eight early-stage entities (‘Group 1’) and six growing/mature entities (‘Group 2’) that champion innovative, impactful, and financially sustainable agritech solutions capable of helping smallholder farmers improve profitability and/or climate resilience. Projects that also include strategies to expand gender inclusivity in the use of agritech will be viewed particularly favourably. Eligible applicants include agritech organizations or start-ups, financial service providers, producer organizations, and agribusinesses operating in or planning to expand to Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, and Peru.

Selected entities will receive grants to finance Technical Assistance (TA) projects: up to USD 50,000 for Group 1 to develop and test new solutions, and up to USD 85,000 for Group 2 to roll out and scale existing agritech services. Applicants able to demonstrate partnerships with Israeli agritech companies may receive additional grant funding of up to USD 28,500. In addition, Group 1 entities will be connected to potential investors with experience and appetite for early-stage investments, while Group 2 might receive a follow-up investment from the funds managed by Incofin IM or other investors.

More information about this exciting opportunity, including eligibility and selection criteria, can be found here. If you are interested in applying, please review the Term Sheet and submit your application through the online application form available here.

Applications will be accepted until 11:59 PM (Colombia time) on April 12, 2024. Any questions related to this Innovation Call can be directed to innovationcall@incofinfoundation.com