By Etienne Grall, Director, Strategy and Innovation & Paulo Martelli, Head of Investments
COVID-19 and its far-reaching health, economic, social, and even political consequences have captured the world’s attention, and rightly so. Across the planet, policy and policymakers were forced to pivot as the coronavirus spread. Life is now divided into two periods: before the pandemic, and during it.
It can be easy to forget how we all approached our work and responsibilities before the COVID-19 storm hit. It’s helpful, therefore, to be reminded of what we were trying to achieve in our various organizations and how we succeeded, or not, in those efforts.
FinDev Canada’s 2019 annual results, which were recently published, leave us feeling pleased and proud to have accomplished what we did. We remain humbled and clear-sighted, however, knowing just how much more there is to do before becoming the development finance institution we aspire to be.
To be sure, 2019 touched a lot of positive notes given that it was FinDev Canada’s first full year of operation. We completed seven new transactions with a value of USD 64 million, bringing our total commitments to USD 94 million, spread across nine active private sector partners operating in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
These investments aligned fully with one or more of our three strategic objectives: to empower women and drive gender equality, to promote and support local market development, and to help communities and countries adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Beyond the numbers, 2019 at FinDev Canada saw a strengthening of our focus on leading with impact at every stage of our investment decision-making. It is central to the way we work with client companies to reduce poverty and build sustainable societies. The ultimate objective of our work must be to improve the lives of people and communities in developing countries; our commitment to impact ensures we are on track to do that.
We also continued improving our internal capacities so that we can respond to the imperatives of our clients and work at the speed of their business. In 2020 over 25% of our transactions were processed, from inception to final approval, in as little as 35 days.
In sum, 2019 saw FinDev Canada emerge as a development finance institution that, young as it is, is starting to make its mark in the global DFI environment. We’ve created a platform for the future that, we trust, will bring real benefits to the people we are meant to support: the entrepreneurs and businesspeople of Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Their success will, in turn, contribute to improving the lives of the people they serve or who depend on them for their livelihood.
The 2020 game-changer
As satisfied as we are with last year’s results, we are also fully aware that the COVID-19 pandemic is leading us to adjust the way we operate. Reduced travel, for instance, is limiting our ability to be physically present in key markets, an obstacle that we can overcome by working with partners and relying more on smart use of technology.
However, while COVID is creating limitations it is also leading to increased demand for our products and services. In response, we’ve ramped up productivity while staying focused on results. That approach is bearing fruit: so far this year, we are working at an accelerated pace to deliver greater value to a greater number of beneficiaries. Projections show us more than doubling our 2019 transaction volumes.
A good example of what we can continue to do despite COVID is Cooprogreso, a leading financial cooperative in Ecuador providing access to financial services to low income customers. As a financial institution, their approach focused on social responsibility and inclusiveness puts them at the forefront of innovation and impact. While our investment in Cooprogreso was made in 2019, we have found since COVID has hit that working with such innovative institutions serving the more vulnerable parts of society allows us to make a tangible difference despite the constraints we must contend with.
As we move farther into 2020 and ahead into 2021, we are focusing on this type of investments, bringing along partners who also recognize the value in “pushing the envelope” when necessary to respond to the changing conditions and needs of potential clients.
2019 has allowed us to lay the bases for the development finance institution that we wish to be: a DFI that puts its clients first and foremost, offering the financing and services they need to grow and prosper for the benefit of their communities and their countries. In 2020, despite the challenges, we are well on our way to strengthen our presence in the market and grow the impact of our work.