"The challenges of our Malian investees are many, but as an impact-first investor, Cordaid Investment Management helps partners to get through hard times. Building long-term partnerships with investees is at the core of our work. We are here to support enterprises that give employment to youth and women, contribute to food security, and provide access to clean energy in the region," says Sjoerd Melsert, Investment Manager of CIM's new West Africa Bright Future Fund.
Sjoerd has just returned from a business trip to Mali where he could meet the investees in person. Having extensive experience over the past 15 years in financing many companies in Africa, Sjoerd joined CIM five months ago. With Mariam Niangado, our Mali-based investment manager, they strategized with investees and developed a solid pipeline of sustainable businesses in the region.
Despite several tough years of political uncertainties, the COVID-19 pandemic, and severe sanctions imposed by The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that were lifted only a month ago – aspiring entrepreneurs are managing to sustain their businesses and keep employees on a payroll. Our West Africa team closely monitors the portfolio and provides emergency support and restructuring to increase our investees' crisis resilience. That's important because enterprises we invest in have an important social function.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the main engines of formal job creation in West Africa – through partnerships with them, CIM is investing in decent employment opportunities, especially for youth and women who are often disadvantaged in the formal labor market. Increasing women and youth's economic and social potential could be a foundation for long-term sustainable development in this conflict-affected state. Moreover, our Malian investees do essential work in agriculture, clean energy, and waste management – which have proven to be transformational for the region.
"We must be close to our investees to avoid losing momentum and maximize positive social impact in fragile environments. Because CIM has investment managers in Mali and other target geographies in West Africa, we provide more than capital – we offer expertise and technical assistance to our investees. Besides, financing is one thing but identifying sustainable companies is another. Having feet on the ground enables us to move around in the networks locally and find the most impactful partnerships; it is one of the key drivers to the success of the West Africa Bright Future Fund," concludes Sjoerd.