Abraaj’s new head of impact: ‘We must be successful’

Kito de Boer, appointed managing partner to lead the growth market specialist’s impact investing business, told delegates in New York the firm must show other investors a ‘path to success’.

Growth markets specialist The Abraaj Group has appointed Kito de Boer as managing partner tasked with overseeing the firm’s impact investing business.

De Boer’s appointment was announced on the same day as the Scaling Impact Investing forum in New York, co-hosted by Abraaj, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Global Impact Investing Network, and timed to coincide with the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Abraaj’s impact investing arm has aligned itself to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and is focused on accessible healthcare and clean energy investments. The SDGs – a set of 17 global goals, targets and indicators UN member states are expected to use to frame their agendas and policies – present at least $12 trillion of investable opportunities, according to the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, an independent body which advises on sustainable development.

In the closing panel at the forum, de Boer built on comments made by Abraaj founder and group chief executive Arif Naqvi earlier in the day around “intentionality”.

“Abraaj has always felt it’s invested with impact, now it is putting intentionality to the forefront and it wants to invest for impact,” de Boer said, adding that transparency around how the firm is progressing towards this is important.

“If you are going to have a double bottom line, just like accountants keep you honest on your financial bottom line, you need to have independent outsiders who are qualified, who have access to what you’re doing, who are clear about what your performance measures are, and actually keep you honest to that.”

De Boer said measurement of the impact Abraaj’s investments are having is “going to be central to what we try to do”.

De Boer, who has more than 30 years’ experience, including as head of mission of the Office of the Quartet with a specific focus on the economic track of the Middle East peace process, said the one thing missing from his track record is investment experience. Rather, his goal will be to mobilise groups from across the private, public and social sectors, and philanthropy to work towards the SDGs relevant to Abraaj’s investment thesis.

“You’re going to have to start to build bridges and links with many different types of players and across all sectors. That may be in the end what impact investing is about,” he said.

De Boer told delegates it is “enormously important” that Abraaj build a track record of success in impact investment, otherwise sceptics’ view that “you can’t do good and do well” – a view that “simply defies the reality that you see on the ground” – will be validated.

“If you can show a path to success, and define what the elements of that success are, then I think other people will follow. I hope that they will be inspired by that,” de Boer said.

“The opportunities for investment in so many of these growth markets are enormous. And if you are going to build a great institution, you’re going to build a great institution by being deeply embedded in the communities and the values of the society in which you’re working.”

On Monday, Abraaj also announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to provide education, primary care interventions, and treatment for noncommunicable diseases, communicable diseases and mother/child healthcare.

The partnership will build a referral pathway to ensure patients from the IFRC network can access quality and affordable treatment options in the $1 billion Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund network. It will also provide patients from the health fund’s hospitals with quality follow-up care within the community setting, according to a statement from the firm.