June was an eventful month for OPIC, which hosted its latest board meeting and approved several funding deals addressing a range of development challenges in a variety of regions. The board’s approvals included two solar projects in Peru, an Internet expansion project in East Africa, and several new investment funds that will bring the latest renewable energy technologies to emerging markets around the world.
Another deal approved by the board was $75 million in financing for the agency’s first-ever investment fund focused on making mezzanine debt investments. As Jay Koh, OPIC’s Head of Investment Funds and Chief Investment Strategist, recently explained, mezzanine financing is a combination of debt and equity financing that has long been used in the U.S. and Europe but is less common in emerging markets. The new fund will invest in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Central and Eastern Europe, where the global financial crisis has severely restricted capital critical for business growth.
This month we also attended the United Nations’ Rio+20 Conference, where we announced a partnership with Marriott to sustainable hotels to emerging markets. Recently, Environmental Leader reported on Marriott and other global hotel chains adopting a standard to calculate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings. We applaud this group of hotels, for taking this step forward in driving sustainable hotel development and use.
Also at RIO+20, OPIC’s President Elizabeth Littlefield joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to announce a new partnership to drive private sector investment to bring more clean energy to Africa. The U.S. State Department, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and OPIC have formed the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative. The initiative is an innovative financing mechanism that aligns U.S. Government resources in new ways to catalyze much-needed private sector investment into clean energy projects in Africa. Energy consumption in Africa and around the world is expected to rise sharply in the coming years as more people join the middle class. And because energy is critical to producing food and storing it in any significant quantity, improved access to energy will help improve food security.
After Rio+20 wrapped up, there were many stories on the progress made, include this report by Business Green, in which UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon highlighted seven successes, including a renewed focus on government partnerships with the private sector. In a piece for Huffington Post, Bob Keefe, the Senior Press Secretary for the Natural Resources Defense Council, reported on the successes of the conference writing, “All of us who were in Rio de Janeiro also witnessed the energy of and saw the desire for change in the 50,000 or so people who came here to be a part of the global dialogue on environmental and sustainability issues.”
The latest Expanding Horizons workshop in New York City drew 190 participants, a record attendance for the series that OPIC hosts around the country to educate small businesses about the financial and insurance tools we offer to help them expand into developing markets For a more detailed discussion of how small businesses can benefit from thinking globally, see Elizabeth Littlefield’s recent piece, “The itty-bitty multinational,” in The Atlantic. The idea of small businesses thinking about global growth was also discussed this month in Upstart Business Journal, which provides tips for small businesses, including making sure they adjust to the customers and cultures of the counties in which they intend to expand.