It’s is not an easy task to juggle being a professional musician with her executive role, but Lize Lübbe does it and it fills her life with a great deal of joy. And she has great ambitions of heading her own impact investing fund one day.
With her adventurous, go-getter personality, Lize Lübbe, principal at Phatisa, opted for the excitement of venture capital and impact investing early in her career. Both are fairly new investment categories in South Africa and the rest of Africa, and this has resulted in a journey navigated mostly through trial and error. Not to mention that she is also a professional musician and a member of the Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2015, Lize was the only South African and one of thirty globally to be selected to participate in the prestigious Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) training programme in California, USA. The programme advances high-performing professionals in the field of impact investing.
Today, as a principal at Phatisa, Lize is part of a team that leads large-scale impact investment projects across the continent and has been intrinsically part of the African Agriculture Fund’s impact of delivering 3,5 million tonnes of food and food-related products, sustaining more than 10 000 permanent jobs, and linking more than 84 000 small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs in rural communities to investment and technical assistance.
‘I am involved in our end-to-end investment process that provides equity funding solutions to businesses on our continent that have high growth potential and significant impact. I am also responsible for managing various strategic value-add projects across our food investment portfolio companies and serve on their boards of directors,’ says Lize.
What Lize loves most about her job is that there is almost no routine or predictability – every day is different, with endless learning and opportunities to enable large-scale impact. This gives her a true sense of purpose and fulfilment because of her contribution to improving others’ lives for the better.
‘I love the travel and adventure that comes with investing across our continent. I really enjoy the people I work with and love collaborating with entrepreneurs in various countries and industries,’ says Lize.
Phatisa is a Mauritius-domiciled sector-specific African private equity fund manager located in and operating across sub-Saharan Africa with three funds in excess of US$400 million under management. At its heart, Phatisa has a development vision with impact embedded in its business model and investment strategy, which is aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Lize states that as part of this agenda, the United Nations has defined the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, an ambitious blueprint for a world without poverty or inequality. However, there is still a US$2,5 trillion global annual funding gap to achieving these goals, which can be bridged through partnerships between the public and private sector and donor community.
She also believes that South Africa’s myriad of social and environmental challenges can be addressed through investing in the SDGs and encourages everyone to participate in this movement to bring about positive social and environmental change.
‘It is critical to understand that contributing to the SDGs should not be an ancillary project for a company, nor the sole responsibility of the corporate social responsibility or environment social and governance departments. It is part of the core of every business. A business does not operate in a silo, it has either a positive or negative impact on the planet – its environment and its people. It is therefore the responsibility of all business leaders and employees to understand their business through the lens of the SDGs,’ emphasises Lize.
With South Africa having one of the highest inequality rates in the world, she is particularly passionate about SDG 10, Reduced Inequality: ‘SDG 10 is intertwined with all the other SDGs, for example those that relate to poverty, education, gender, economic growth, health and others. This resonates with me on so many levels including our specific South African context as well as the immediate needs arising directly and indirectly from COVID-19, which has a major impact on lives and livelihoods,’ she says.
‘Inequality within and among nations continues to be a significant concern despite progress in and efforts at narrowing disparities of opportunity, income and power. Income inequality continues to rise in the world and greater emphasis needs to be placed on reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on other factors including gender, race, religion, education and many more.’
She continues: ‘Furthermore, every type of inequality is magnified and exposed through COVID-19, which makes this SDG even more relevant and urgent. This pandemic has had a significant impact on unemployment, income inequality, food security, child nutrition and gender-based violence, to name a few. This socio-economic impact on the poorest and most vulnerable of our society is expected to last for years beyond the pandemic and requires a specific and intentional focus of leaders across the board.’
Lize is also one of the first women to represent Phatisa on several of their investment company boards of directors. ‘Every day presents a new opportunity to learn and tackle every challenge head-on. It does not ever escape me that as a young leader I have a duty to share my journey, especially with other people who are underrepresented in the private equity boardroom, and particular female colleagues. I think in this sharing, it normalises female achievements rather than making them seem extraordinary, possible rather than illusive.’
Lize speaks about a new impact investment focus – gender lens investing – saying that it has been proven that women suffer disproportionately from poverty and that this investment focus represents an effective way to accelerate poverty alleviation. Research has shown that women are more likely to devote their earnings to their families and communities, have a more long-term focus on spend, and are more focused on creating equal employment opportunities.
‘In the investment industry, gender lens investing is becoming increasingly important. This includes investing in women-led businesses, businesses that promote workplace equity or businesses that offer products or services targeted at women. Gender lens investing is a key focus area for Phatisa and its impact initiatives have led to a 168% increase of employment for women across all its funds under management since investment,’ says Lize.