Dr Addisu Lashitew presenting at Africa Works conference 2016 in Amsterdam
Dr Addisu Lashitew presenting at Africa Works conference 2016 in Amsterdam

The Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC) at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), held a workshop about financing inclusive business models at Africa Works!, a networking and knowledge sharing conference for NGOs, companies and knowledge institutes doing business in Africa. Researchers from the PrC presented their insights on impact investing and inclusive business models, which informed the subsequent expert panel discussion. Africa Works 2016 took place at the Royal Tropics Institute in Amsterdam on 10 and 11 November.

RSM’s Partnerships Resource Centre’s mission is to enhance the effectiveness and impact of cross-sector partnerships by leveraging evidence-based knowledge that is tailored for use by practitioners. Given its commitment to research on inclusive and sustainable growth through partnering and inclusive business, the PrC was invited by the Netherlands-African Business Council, one of the Africa Works! organisers, to host a workshop entitled ‘Financing Inclusive Business Models,' which drew audiences from NGOs and the private sector.

The business case for impact investing

In the workshop PrC’s Dr Addisu Lashitew introduced impact investing; investment that creates societal value above and beyond financial returns for its shareholders. He explained that for a long time, impact investing meant microfinance for the poor but the concept is now expanding with new and dynamic impact investors joining the market.

Lashitew: “As inclusive and sustainable business comes mainstream, impact investing that targets these businesses will also become a norm.” He said that while that might take time, a survey conducted by PrC among 400 businesses was encouraging. More than half of the respondents in the survey consider creating societal impact to be profitable.

A ‘missing middle’ of inclusive businesses

The workshop was followed by an expert panel discussion involving four experts from Dutch development bank FMO, as well as ING bank, Enviu and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The panel, chaired by PrC’ founder Professor Rob van Tulder, expounded a range of discussion points from impact measurement to the challenges and opportunities of impact investing.

One particular point of discussion was the idea of a ‘missing middle’ of inclusive businesses: commitment to societal impact is confined to small social enterprises at one end of the spectrum and large corporations such as Safaricom in Africa or Philips and Unilever in Europe, at the other. Participants discussed how to bring social impact to the mainstream, especially to the vast SMEs that account for much of economic production.

View the PrC’s sustainability research.

Africa Works!

The Africa Works! Conference bring together NGOs, companies and knowledge institutes to inform, inspire, and connect the Dutch private sector with the various regional industries of Africa. The conference was founded by the Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC) and the African Studies Centre (ASC Leiden) in 2012. This 2016 edition, held on 10-11 November, addressed the financing of business in Africa’s growing economies, with an eye to Dutch foreign direct investment (FDI).


More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. www.rsm.nl

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