Meet, Lwazi Wali, the woman who is revolutionarising the finance sector in Africa

Lwazi Wali is a global citizen, futurist, impact investor and blockchain for impact enthusiast. She is passionate about unlocking capital for women and impact as well as leveraging the power of capital markets, innovative finance and entrepreneurship to build the type of leapfrog industries Africa needs.

Lwazi is ICO Chief Investment Officer and Co-Founder of Raise Impact, a pan-African fintech startup pioneering Africa's first mobile exchange for ICOs, Digital Assets and tokenized private capital to drive liquidity towards Pan-African SMEs and Female Founders. Raise will enable an entrepreneur in Swaziland to directly invest or raise capital from an investor in Uganda or anywhere else on the continent or globe, which was previously not the case.

Today, pan-African entrepreneurs are limited to only raising funds through traditional markets, such as banks and local venture capitals’ who often deem them to risky or charge them exorbitant fees and interest, further crippling their chances of success.

In 2017, Lwazi whose full name is Nolwazi also founded “HQ” (Her-Quarters) – which aims to be Africa’s first digital, social, capital market for women by women to address the gaps in access to knowledge, capital and markets often faced by pan- African women of colour across the diaspora. A complimentary product to Raise, HQ will also serve as a front end think tank and accelerator for female founders to help them get investor ready, build capacity and scale their business beyond the seed to startup level where majority of them reside today due to a lack of mentorship and financing.

These businesses will then have the option to list on the Raise platform to access a wider pool of global and pan-African investors and customers through decentralized and cryptocurrency markets.

According to the 2017, National Venture Capital Association and Pitchbook Data, men make up 89 percent of partners at venture firms, with companies founded by men raising 36 times more money in 2017 than those founded by women. When compared to their female counterparts, less than 2 percent of U.S Private Equity firms are women-owned and only 2 percent of U.S. venture capital went to companies run entirely by women; with just 12 percent of that to teams with at least one woman. This highlights a key trend regarding why women struggle to raise venture capital and consequently struggle to scale their start-ups.

The stats are even more alarming for Pan-African and women of color specifically, with less than 0.02% of global VC, valued at $155bn in 2017 (Venture Pulse, KPMG) going towards those founder teams; that represents a measly 20c of every $10 spent going to women-founders, despite women being in the majority and data showing that women-owned businesses tend to outperform their male counterparts and have more sustaining impact on the communities and lives around them.

HQ exists to address this problem. HQ operates on the premise that poverty is not an IQ issue but rather an access issue - access to knowledge, capital and markets. By accessing alternative financial instruments such IIX Sustainability Bonds, and Crypto markets we expect to unlock billions in alternative capital towards women over the next decade.

Prior to that, Nolwazi was the lead investment officer at one of South Africa’s largest Investment Holdings Firms, andhas over seven years experience in deal structuring, business development and campaigns at one of the world’s leading aerospace and Energy Manufacturers in the US and UK, managing a portfolio size of USD $3bn.

Lwazi earned a Finance and International Business degree in 2009 at the University of Virginia’s, McIntire School of Commerce. After 12 years abroad, Lwazi returned back to South Africa in 2015 to participate in building the innovative finance and impact investing ecosystem in South Africa and has worked with South African regulators, financiers and global DFIs and thinktanks, such as the Aspen Institute (ANDE) to liberalize alternative financing structures and democratise capital for pan African entrepreneurs.

In 2016, she was the first African selected for a coveted slot at the Asia, Impact Investment Exchange’s Impact Institute, (IIX Global) in Singapore - the world’s first Social Capital Market and 2017 recipient of the Oslo Business for Peace Award ( Nobel Peace Prize equivalent for Impact Investing). In 2017, they structured and listed the world’s first Women’s Livelihood Income Bond (WLB1) – a sustainability bond, structured like a traditional market bond, but however yields both financial and social returns, unlike a Social Impact Bond where payment to investors is linked to social outcomes achieved. WLB is a fixed income security with dual focus on social and financial returns.

WLB 1 mobilised $8m in private sector capital by pooling together a basket of high impact enterprises (IEs) – defined as revenue generating non-profits or mission driven for-profits – and Microfinance Institutions (MFIs). IE’s and MFIs are key drivers of change owing to their ability to create scalable impact in a financially sustainable way. Despite being the first of its kind, WLB 1 was over-subscribed by investors, illustrating the significant investor demand for impact investment products that offer scale, transparency and liquidity. Building off its success and lessons learnt, IIX is working to design WLB 2 ($30m) and other similar financial mechanisms to mobilise large-scale capital for development globally.

In October 2017, she pioneered a partnership with IIX Global to form their first sub-SaharanChapter – IIX Johannesburg. In partnership with the Graca Machel Trust, IIX JHB will pioneer Africa’s first women’s livelihood income bond to mobilise capital towards pan-African IEs and MFIs.

With IIXs decade long history in effectively unlocking capital for Impact, coupled with GMTs Pan African footprint, this offers a unique and synergistic relationship that will enable women to invest in women, focusing on key sectors such as Nutrition, Food Fortification initiatives, financial inclusion and education institutions that celebrate our African heritage in curricula and return to our indigenous African Ubuntu model of community where “no one is left behind.

The Chapter will also be engaging with several other local impact investing and financing ecosystem partners including Banks, DFI, Academic Institutions and Government agencies in structuring the Bond.