British International Investment

Five highlights from our Insight events in 2022

This year we’ve welcomed a range of leading investors, academics, and businesspeople to speak at our Insight events. As 2022 draws to a close, we’ve rounded up a selection of highlights.


Accelerating digital transformation for sustainable economic development

At the start of the year, leading emerging markets investor, Nikunj Jinsi, and our Head of Technology and Telecoms, Abhinav Sinha, discussed the role of digital technology in transforming societies and delivering impact. 

One key takeaway from the discussion, from Abhinav Sinha: 

“You can’t keep doing the same things again and again and expect different results, so digital is a whole new way of approaching some of the biggest challenges in society. And it is a force multiplier. If you invest in digital infrastructure you can push through education tools, governance tools, solutions for financial inclusion. It is very capital effective.”  

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Why we need to equalise access to finance

In March, we spoke to two leaders at the forefront of inclusive investing: Roshaneh Zafar, the visionary founder of Kashf Foundation in Pakistan, which provides a range of vital financial services for women and Hany Assaad of Avanz Capital, a leading emerging markets investor and gender lens investing champion. 

We discussed how to elevate gender-lens investing to a mainstream strategy as well as the lessons that can be applied when designing future inclusive investment policies targeting other marginalised sections of society. 

One key takeaway from the discussion, from Roshaneh Zafar: 

“We assume women businesses are more risky, but let me tell you, post COVID we had the best portfolio because women paid us back, despite the challenges they faced so it’s more about perception rather than evidence.” 

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Using the circular economy to tackle the climate crisis in emerging markets

In June, we were joined by Lindsay Stradley, co-founder of Sanergy – a pioneering circular economy business providing safe sanitation services in Africa’s low-income urban areas. 

We discussed the potential of the circular economy in developing and emerging markets. We also explored the challenges facing businesses like Sanergy in securing investment, and the role of development finance institutions and impact investors in enabling the growth of the circular economy in these markets. 

One key takeaway from the discussion, from Lindsay Stradley: 

“It may sound obvious but Sanergy’s circular business approach ensures that the inputs we use never run out. Which means that the outputs don’t run out. This brings consistency for our customers and allows for local production. In turn, this creates jobs as well as inputs for local farmers.”  

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Investing in fragile states 

Over the summer we also hosted a conversation with Stefan Dercon, Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and former Chief Economist at the Department for International Development. We discussed his new book, “Gambling on Development: Why some countries win and others lose”, which looks at why some of the previously poorest countries have prospered while others have failed. 

One key quote from the discussion, from Stefan Dercon:  

“If we look around the world, there are diverse societies which have done reasonably well in the last three or four decades. Indonesia, Bangladesh, China, Ghana and maybe Ethiopia until quite recently, have been growing fast and doing reasonable things for development. The common element is that those with power and influence in society valued growth and development quite substantially. I make this a minimal precondition for development, because without that, we’re not going to get very far.” 

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Accelerating Africa’s energy transition

With over 600 million Africans living in energy poverty, improving access to affordable and reliable energy sources is critical to the future growth and prosperity of the continent. Coupled with the urgent requirement to decarbonise, Africa’s energy transition is a unique and complex challenge.  

In November, just ahead of COP27 in Egypt, we were joined by Lord Adair Turner, Energy Transitions Commission and Rose Mutiso, Energy for Growth Hub. The event discussed the action needed for the transition to net-zero and resilient energy systems, and how Africa’s transition differs from other regions. 

A key quote from the discussion, from Rose Mutiso: 

“We need to look beyond the [energy] supply side and not just build scenarios around what we can produce from a generation side. We have to think about the ecosystem that these renewables are plugging into, and how we can support that. And how we can have productive uses, high energy consumers, that are also, you know, building demand and creating opportunity.” 

A second key quote from the discussion, from Lord Adair Turner:  

“The IEA estimates that the total renewable energy resource in Africa from solar and wind is about 2.6 million terawatt hours. That’s about 19 times bigger than even our most aggressive estimates of all the electricity needed for the whole world. So there is just an enormous amount of potential.” 

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