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Bankers Without Boundaries Talk Series: 1

Solving Energy Access in Emerging Countries with Blended Finance


Last month, BwB hosted our Ambassador Leslie Labruto for our Talks Series titled “Solving Energy Access in Emerging Countries with Blended Finance”. Leslie is Global Head of Energy at Acumen, where she leads Acumen’s $20M Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative (PEII). Leslie is responsible for driving strategy, portfolio construction, and thought leadership for Acumen’s Global Energy Portfolio.

Leslie delivered an insightful talk addressing the complexities of navigating risk in emerging market ventures and the opportunities presented both in terms of financial return and social impact. We discussed the complementarities with the work BwB has been doing internationally, from offering technical assistance in aligning nature outcomes to sovereign debt restructuring in West Africa to creating an innovative bond repayments to education outcomes in Asia. The three main takeaways from this talk were:

- Using subsidies in blended finance structures is crucial as a way of creating the "minimum concessionality" required to attract catalytic private capital which bears higher risk and accepts risk adjusted returns.


- Despite a lack of infrastructure, the African market has many attractive characteristics for ventures, from a demographic explosion to abundant entrepreneurialism. Harnessing these strengths presents a viable pathway to achieving key SDGs and ensuring an environmentally sustainable post-covid recovery

- Local knowledge is absolutely critical to any successful emerging market venture as the traditional business models of developed market start-ups are not perfectly transferable.


Bankers without Boundaries is a not-for-profit, finance innovation organisation powered by former investment bankers to assist high impact projects that benefit the environment and social good. BwB works with governments, institutions, cities and foundations to provide advisory and research services to mobilise capital. BwB applies financial concepts and structuring to public projects to align them with the investment needs of capital markets, thinking about risk reduction, scaling and generation of financial returns alongside broader positive co-benefits and impacts.

Acumen is a non-profit impact investment fund with over 15 years’ experience in investing in social enterprises that serve low-income communities in developing countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and the United States. It aims to demonstrate that small amounts of philanthropic capital, combined with large doses of business acumen can result in thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of the poor. Over the years, Acumen has invested $115 million in 113 companies and has had a successful track record in sourcing and executing investment opportunities in the clean energy, health care and agriculture sectors.


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