Delivering impact and fostering innovation through DFC’s PI² Initiative

By Dia Martin, Managing Director for Social Enterprise Finance at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation

Early-stage innovators across the developing world, including those with highly impactful solutions to critical challenges, often face incredible hurdles to securing long-term and sustainable flows of capital.

Consider Kasha, an e-commerce company selling personal care and health products to women in Kenya and Rwanda. Kasha’s innovative business-to-consumer model is helping combat the strong social stigma associated with the purchase and use of women’s healthcare and sanitation products in the region. Or look at Africa Healthcare Network, the largest operator of dialysis centers in East Africa, which provides affordable and high-quality healthcare services in six countries.

Like many other growth-stage businesses, Kasha and Africa Healthcare Network faced challenges to accessing financing that would enable the companies to deliver on their developmental impact. This year, DFC helped bridge the financing gap by providing $1 million in equity to Kasha and a $5 million direct loan to Africa Healthcare Network through the agency’s Portfolio for Impact and Innovation (PI²) initiative.

Unveiled in 2020, PI² builds on the success of Portfolio for Impact (PI), an initiative launched in 2014 by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) before its transformation to DFC. PI² provides support for early-stage yet highly developmental social enterprises, which often lack access to capital due to their relative size, short track record, and novel approaches. By supporting these enterprises and enabling them to scale at a critical point in their life cycle, DFC is executing on its mandate to deliver deeply developmental impact by providing life-changing goods and services to those that need them most.

DFC’s PI² Initiative has had a banner year in 2021, building on the program’s success since its launch. Over the past year, PI² committed 20 investments totaling approximately $145 million, more than doubling the size of the program.

In addition to these milestones, this year’s PI² investments are directly aligned with DFC’s development strategy and strategic objectives. More than 90 percent of the approved investments are in low- and lower middle-income countries, and all scored as highly developmental under DFC’s Impact Quotient (IQ), a modernized tool that measures impact throughout the life of the project. Investments committed under PI² are helping advance DFC’s Health and Prosperity Initiative, the Biden administration’s U.S. International Climate Finance Plan, DFC’s 2X Women’s Initiative, and our commitment to supporting food security in emerging markets. And PI² leveraged DFC’s entire suite of tools by advancing equity investments and technical development services as well as traditional debt financing.

Here are other impactful projects supported by PI² this year:

Funding small and medium-sized companies in the world’s Least Developed Countries

According to the IFC, at least an additional $78 billion is needed to reach financially constrained SMEs in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). A $10 million loan to the Bamboo-UNCDF Initiative for the Least Developed (BUILD) Fund is helping combat this gap by providing financing to companies focused on agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and access to finance in these countries.

Augmenting healthcare capacity in India

USAID estimates that more than 39 million Indians fall into poverty every year due to medical costs, a challenge that is exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A $7.7 million loan guaranty to Portea Medical, India’s leading out-of-hospital healthcare company, is providing technology-enabled healthcare delivery solutions to address these healthcare challenges.

Reducing carbon emissions in East Africa

A $9 million loan is helping Ampersand build a fleet of more than 1000 electronic motorbikes in Rwanda and Kenya, providing a sustainable and cost-efficient replacement for gas-powered motorcycle taxis.

Empowering refugees in Jordan and Lebanon

Refugees face particular challenges to accessing economic opportunities, and host countries often experience pressure on their job markets, infrastructure, and educational systems. A $10 million investment in the Refugee Livelihoods Development Impact Bond (DIB), the first DIB to specifically target refugees, will support Near East Foundation UK’s micro-enterprise program for refugees and host populations, primarily women and youth.

These innovative projects represent PI²’s unique ability to deliver outsized impact across the developing world. Despite comprising just 2.25% of DFC’s new commitments during this fiscal year, PI²’s portfolio serves as an engine for driving transformative development in emerging markets.

And this is only the beginning for the initiative. By providing critical financing to early-stage business models, PI² is continuing to lean forward into impact and innovation to address today’s most pressing global development needs.