Private Sector Forum: Why Corporate Social Impact Investment Matters!

The Private Sector Forum was organised in partnership with Konrad Adenauer foundation to raise awareness and encourage discussions around the topic of Social Impact Investment (SII). By looking for social investment opportunities aligned with their businesses and operations, companies can create value for society, reinforce business objectives and create value for shareholders. The event comprised a rich programme and multiple stakeholders that contributed through their practical and theoretical experience. As a result, the participants learned more about different approaches to SII, how to get support in identifying investment opportunities, and they discussed mechanisms to develop social investment activities in Uganda.

Concept of Corporate Social Investment

Firstly, a keynote address to the forum was given by Ms. Josephine Kaleebi, a Social development practitioner. Her presentation titled: “A contextual reflection on Social Impact Investment landscape in Uganda” sought to address the participants’ understanding of the concept of Corporate Social Impact Investment. She cited out the difference between Corporate Social Investment (CSI) from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) indicating that the two are relatively different. She noted that CSI is not only a charitable donation but provides “repayable finance that aims to achieve a social and financial return”. The speaker emphasized that although CSI is still a relatively new concept in Uganda’s corporate business ecosystem, companies ought to embrace it. Because there are clear business rationales for engaging in social investment: to learn about new markets, grow on existing market, foster innovation, and generate sustainable financial returns.

Opportunities & Challenges

Afterwards, a panel discussion was held to shed light on the topic from multiple angles. Ms. Barbara Kasekende, Impact Investment Manager at Stanbic Bank, emphasized that there are multiple approaches to SII ranging from initial pilots to scaled-up programmes with explicit links to the core business and greater integration into commercial activities. She concludes that new barriers for CSI are: identifying a pipeline of suitable investments, limited resources, and limited opportunities for collaboration. However, she elaborated on steps to address these, which comprise: considering alternative vehicles for investment and social innovation – such as longer-term partnerships, joint ventures, and social business units; developing a network of like-minded corporations, utilizing intermediaries and market makers as well as engaging strategic advisors to build the business case for expansion of current activities.

Ms. Pamela Bayenda, Sustainability Development Manager of Nile Breweries Limited (NBL), alluded to the fact that companies are in a unique position to both supply and deploy capital in social investment. In addition, Ms. Pamela noted that social impact investment is part of a broader focus on creating “shared value”, a shift in mindset that needs to be led by senior management.  From the viewpoint of a social entrepreneur, Mr. Benjamin Rukwegye, CEO of Boundless Minds, examined the politicization of the Social impact investment processes in the country. He remarked that being a social entrepreneur in Uganda, it is really hard to raise incomes from corporate companies in Uganda. They always look for those doing considerable work aligning to their objectives of operation. Nevertheless, he pointed out that raising awareness of social investment opportunities within the firm and education on the benefits that social investment can bring across the business, can overcome a lot of barriers.

Donnas Ojok, Programme Officer, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, pointed out that companies can actually involve in CSI activities without investing any penny such as the Musana Arts-Coca Cola initiative. He further argued that there is a need for all stakeholders to push for a policy framework on CSI with a truly integrated and holistic approach and a firm grasp of social and economic issues.

In general, the forum acknowledged that it is important to encourage the debate on the concept and understanding of CSI. Corporations have a platform to do far more in social investment – in funding, providing skills and incubating new innovations. They are in a privileged position to work with government, public bodies, and other companies to develop new social investment concepts.