Since our inception in 1997, Norfund’s mandate has focused on investing to build sustainable businesses and alleviate poverty through job creation. This year marks 25 years since the Norwegian Parliament brought Norfund to life, and filled a need for an active, strategic investment fund for developing countries. Our focus though is on the future, and the next 25 years and beyond.
We very recently reached another milestone: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acting on one of the most pressing challenges of our time, entrusted Norfund with an additional mandate — to manage the Climate Investment Fund. While the world is taking steps toward addressing the climate crisis, the recent IPCC Report is a stark reminder that more action is needed. Norfund’s Climate Investment Fund is allocating 10 billion NOK over five years to invest in the transition to net zero in emerging markets. Each year, for the next ten years, one billion NOK from Norfund’s capital and one billion NOK from the state budget will be invested in renewable energy in the growing economies where the climate effect will be greatest. Norfund’s total investments in renewable energy during the past 25 years have already contributed to avoiding 9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually — equivalent to almost one fifth of Norway’s annual emissions, or all Norwegian road traffic.
The market landscape is being hit by not only the remaining negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the impact of rising interest rates and climate change all at once. While this outlook may appear grim, it makes the role of development finance even more crucial. Norfund increased its investments in developing countries by 10% in 2021 — hitting a record high of 5.3 billion NOK. This is a testament to the drive of our team and investees, who have been able to deliver despite facing unprecedented challenges and circumstances.
Last year, Norfund received 1.68 billion NOK from the development assistance budget and invested three times as much — increasing our contribution to job creation and the fight against poverty, despite the endurance of the pandemic. In total, Norfund made 32 new investments and 13 follow-up investments in existing companies in 2021. Last year we also made our first investment in water supply, an exciting new area for us. Through returns and sales, we can use the same money several times, and thus contribute to creating even more jobs, making a difference, effectively.
During large parts of 2021, we had to work from our home offices. Travelling was also highly restricted. COVID-restrictions put a large burden on the Norfund team, but they taught us that we are able to unite to achieve a common goal. With travel resuming in some regions in the second half of the year, I was lucky enough to travel to Kenya and South Africa in October where I amongst others visited Marginpar, an East African flower producer that was initially hit hard by the effects of COVID but managed to recover.
I also was able to visit our partners at Fourth Partner Energy (4PEL) on a trip to India in November. 4PEL is one of India’s leading distributed solar platforms, providing on- and off-site power supply to larger commercial and industrial (C&I) clients. The company is targeting 3 GW of installed solar capacity by 2025 and expansion of capabilities across energy storage and EV charging infrastructure. It was great to see our investment and team in action in the field!
Finally, the war in Ukraine shocked the world with full force early this year. The toll it has taken on human life is heartbreaking, while also causing increasing food, energy and fertilizer prices in our markets, leading to increased food insecurity. There is no blueprint to deal with a crisis like this, but we can adjust our operations to address the situation at hand. That is something Norfund excels at: we are nimble, and able to adapt quickly to face dilemmas head on.
The next quarter century
Over the years we have grown as an organization, in terms of resources and staff, and in terms of the depth of our reach, our responsibility and our relationships; with our stakeholders, with the public and crucially, with our investees. Our mandates are becoming ever more pressing as issues of inequality and climate change reach critical tipping points. These topics will remain front and center in Norfund’s focus and will clearly articulate the drivers and markets we will focus on to deliver our goals and create significant impact. We firmly believe that by using public funds to strengthen business and the private sector, we have the power to change lives.
Chief Executive Officer
May 18, 2022