Red Cross to create private investment platforms for humanitarian work

by Reuters
Thursday, 12 September 2019 16:05 GMT

Bonds and direct investment platforms would give displaced people long-term access to food, water and shelter without relying on aid convoys

By Libby George

LAGOS, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) wants to connect private investors with potentially money-making projects in areas blighted by conflict, its president said on Thursday.

The ICRC head told business leaders in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos that it plans to launch five to ten new financing mechanisms by 2025 in conflict-hit areas around the world where investors typically would not venture.

Private cash and expertise - via financial mechanisms such as bonds and direct investment platforms - would give displaced people long-term access to food, water and shelter without relying on aid convoys, said ICRC president Peter Maurer.

Ideally, he said, the money could also help them start their own small businesses or farms.

"With longer, more protracted conflicts ... we need to give people income opportunities," Maurer said. "Even if they are in refuge camps, even if they are in (internally displaced person) camps, they want to do something," he added.

ICRC will use the new financing models around the world, but Maurer said Nigeria's cash-rich businesses - and conflict-prone regions - make it an ideal experimental ground.

The decade-long insurgency waged by militant Islamist group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria has forced more than 2 million people to flee their homes in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Elsewhere, people from Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan are also facing long-term displacement.

The ICRC said its success with a "Humanitarian Impact Bond" launched in 2017 prompted it to look at other funding mechanisms that could pair investors with specific projects.

Maurer said a water distribution project it built in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri and an app it developed in South Sudan to help diagnose diseases in children were both potentially money-making ventures that could be taken over by the private sector.

In future, he said the collaboration would enable the private sector to fund and help guide profitable - and therefore sustainable - solutions to other basic needs.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Nigerian business mogul Tony Elumelu are trying to raise the ICRC's profile in Nigeria's business community.

Elumelu, whose private foundation is already funding an ICRC-backed entrepreneur project in Nigeria's northeast and southern Delta regions, said companies need to think of it as a new way of investing, rather than aid.

(Reporting By Libby George; Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Giles Elgood)

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