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– Heleen Goussard, Head of Unlisted Investments at RisCura

An inclusive investment industry is essential to investing for a better world

Progress on gender diversity within the global financial services industry is lagging. New research shows that the percentage of female fund managers has flatlined in 2022 at 12% globally, increasing by a mere 1.7% since 2016.

“Progress on gender diversity within the global financial services industry is lagging,” Goussard adds.

Similarly, the Women in Finance Charter, which measures the gender balance in the financial services industry at senior management level, noted a stagnation in female representation between 2021 and 2022.2 In South Africa, current figures are even more concerning, with single female managers or female-only teams overseeing just 5% of assets under management.

The problem addressed by the fund

Over and above the increasing pressure from regulatory bodies for firms to satisfy tick box transformation requirements, with females accounting for just under half of the world’s population, it seems only sensible for the financial services and investment industries to aim for greater female representation.

“Over and above the increasing pressure from regulatory bodies for firms to satisfy tick box transformation requirements, with females accounting for just under half of the world’s population, it seems only sensible for the financial services and investment industries to aim for greater female representation,” Goussard adds.

One such initiative addressing the low rate of gender transformation and growth within the African investment context is the African Women Impact Fund (AWIF). Launched in September 2022 by the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) and the Standard Bank Group, together with its partners – UN Women, the Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security of the African Union Commission, and the African Women Leadership Network – the AWIF seeks to bolster women working in finance and asset management.

Other partners include the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), the Motor Industry Retirement Funds (MIRF), Telkom Retirement Fund and the African Union Commission (AUC), among others.

The Fund’s mandate is to invest with women-owned and managed investment firms or women-led strategies within other investment firms, covering both listed and unlisted markets. Being a purpose-driven global investment company specialising in emerging and frontier markets, RisCura is delighted to be appointed as the Fund’s investment manager and provider of management development and support services.

With an over twenty-year history of driving manager development in Southern Africa, RisCura has long championed diversity in the industry. It has created a programme to support developing asset managers and manage the risk to investors investing with them during the early stages, bringing more women into and promoting women in the industry.

Through managing a wide range of multi-asset and single-asset class fund of fund portfolios on behalf of clients, RisCura has an excellent working knowledge of the leading women fund managers in the asset management industry.

With its first commitment of USD60 million, the initiative’s agenda is to make a commercial impact for investors while empowering women financial leaders to drive growth in Africa. It aims to reach USD1 billion over 10 years for women fund managers who will invest in high-impact sectors and projects across Africa.

The AWIF is a multi-managed aggregator fund that invests in the African Women Public Markets Impact Fund, which is open-ended and focused on funds that invest in public markets, and the African Women Private Markets Impact Fund, which is closed-ended and focused on funds investing in private markets with exposure to private equity, private debt, venture capital, infrastructure and direct property.

Investors will also have the option to invest directly in the African Women Public Markets Impact Fund or the African Women Private Markets Impact Fund. At the same time, the platform will facilitate co-investment with AWIF initiative partners as a way to amplify the positive impact of the Fund’s influence.

How the fund will impact broader society

This mandate naturally aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goals 5 and 8 – which target decent work, gender equality and economic growth. This also connects to the goals outlined in the African Union Agenda 2063, which, under Goal 17, advocates for gender equality in all spheres of life and promotes a higher standard of living, quality of life and well-being for all citizens under Goal 1.

It also advocates for advancing a transformed economy under Goal 4, advocating for functional continental financial and monetary institutions under Goal 9 and promoting the development of world-class infrastructure across Africa under Goal 10.

These goals will be made possible through the upliftment of women through investment. Research shows that women uplift communities much faster when they are empowered and educated.

“These goals will be made possible through the upliftment of women through investment. Research shows that women uplift communities much faster when they are empowered and educated,” Goussard says.

Attracting and empowering more talented female asset managers throughout Africa leads the way for a more inclusive asset management industry. Women fund managers are more likely to enable more inclusivity in the assets they invest in, whether it’s companies or bond issuers. This will in turn empower more women into economic inclusion on the continent, an outcome that would serve to uplift African societies and nations in turn. In short, a more inclusive investment industry is essential to investing for a better world – one that is more reflective of all members of society.

Investing with care is a thread that weaves through everything we do at RisCura, where our shared purpose is to work towards the long-term good of our clients, society and the planet. Given our lengthy experience in investment management and asset manager development in Africa, RisCura’s appointment demonstrates that investing should drive sustainable returns and connect to the real economy.