SINGAPORE (July 30): Asia, home to the most billionaires but also more than three-quarters of the world’s poor, has arguably the right combination for impact investing. In 2016, Credit Suisse’s maiden impact investment fund, launched in partnership with UOB Venture Management, drew US$55 million from wealthy Asian individuals and entrepreneurs.

The Asian Impact Fund has a target internal rate of return of 20%, roughly on par with mainstream private equity funds in the region. It will invest in China and Southeast Asia, focusing on what the bank calls “base-of-the-pyramid problems”.  The fund has invested in eight companies so far. One provides affordable supplementary education to students in Indonesia and has expanded its reach from one million students to eight million in 12 months. Another helps farmers in China grow and market blueberries, which are perceived as higher-value crops compared with rice.

“There is no better place than Asia in terms of opportunities — both economically, as well as socially and environmentally,” says Joost Bilkes, the bank’s vice-president and head of impact advisory and finance for Asia-Pacific. With some 2.9 billion low-income individuals, there is plenty of opportunity for companies and investors looking to make an impact.

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