CrossBoundary Group
30.01.2024
Opinion
30.01.2024
Opinion

CrossBoundary Compass: Perspectives on 2024

What To Know
CrossBoundary Compass compiles insights on 2024 from our sectoral and regional teams - including US Underserved Markets, Energy Access, Sovereign Advisory, and Natural Capital
At the close of 2023, we asked our team to take a forward-looking view of what is on the horizon in 2024 – not only reflective of the current investment landscape but also anticipating the trends shaping our world in the months to come. Here's what is on their minds.

“I believe we are transitioning from an era of financial capitalism to one of industrial and state capitalism. I am looking closely at disintermediation in the private markets—especially in the mid-market and below. I suspect many private market funds will experience a challenging year. On the flip side, there will be more space for asset owners to fill a critical role as providers of flexible capital.”

Mike Casey, Director of Strategic Engagement, CrossBoundary Group

Historic elections

and geopolitical risk

 

Stephen Akpakwu, Head of Sovereign Advisory Portrait of Stephen Akpakwu

Location: London, UK

What is on your radar for the year ahead?

Elections, elections, elections! With the US elections in 2024 (and over 70 elections in countries representing more than 4 billion people), outcomes at the polls and the willingness of the citizenry to accept election results will be a litmus test for the continued viability of the democratic process.

The picture around inflationary outcomes remains unclear. While a soft landing is expected for larger economies, the shocks wrought by high interest rates on emerging markets point to a more challenging picture of debt sustainability and pockets of economic contraction.

Geopolitical risk remains top of mind, as do the impacts of an intensifying (and escalatory) risk profile across the globe on commodity prices, cost of debt, and market access.

What should governments and/or sovereign issuers embrace in the new year? Why?

Technology will continue to play a greater role in facilitating market access, fostering transparency and accountability, and reducing transaction costs. Already, we see tools like blockchain-based carbon offset reporting and trading platforms. And CrossBoundary’s electronic debt sustainability analysis tool is garnering significant interest in the market. These tools will ultimately reduce the cost of debt whilst bridging the information/perception gap between capital seekers and providers.

What risks and/or opportunities should investors be cognizant of this year?

Governments and investors should be cognizant of the revived interest in climate finance. The journey towards decarbonization is progressing slower than anticipated. There should be an urgency to embark on mitigation and adaptation policies and initiatives to address this whilst ensuring the growth and development of local economies.

“I’m excited to see growing investor confidence in the energy access sector and look forward to engaging with investors, developers, and other industry players in 2024 through CrossBoundary Access’ Open Source initiative to overcome financing barriers and grow the sector.”

Terry Otinga, Senior Investment Associate, CrossBoundary Access

Regulatory implementation for

nature protection and restoration

 

 

Portrait of Christine LivetChristine Livet, Associate Principal – Natural Capital, CrossBoundary Advisory

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

What important events/milestones are going to occur in your market in 2024? How will they shape the investable landscape?

In 2024, the implementation of several regulatory initiatives will help spur more action and investment into nature protection and restoration, as well as improving the management of supply chains related to deforestation (such as soy, coffee, and livestock) by tasking corporates to measure and report their impact on nature.

These include the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, the EU Deforestation Regulation and the further development of the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD). This will be easier said than done, but we hope to see a few early adopters lead the way (official early adopters for TNFD to be announced at Davos in a few weeks) and showcase that disclosures, while difficult to report, can be done with commitment.

Which country/region will have a breakout year in 2024?

Central and West Africa: Now that carbon markets are becoming more established as a financing mechanism (though not without faults!), we are seeing several strongly managed, up-and-coming developers that are working closely with local communities and governments to conduct nature protection and restoration with at-scale ambitions, and a focus on quality and integrity. Globally, climate and nature has been perpetually under-funded (see CPI’s Landscape of Climate Finance in Africa 2022), and Central Africa has received the lowest climate flows despite housing what is arguably one of the most critical biomes globally that must be protected, the Congo Basin.

Mozambique: If all goes according to plan, Mozambique will impose a new set of carbon markets regulations in 2024. It is still uncertain exactly what impact this will have on the investment landscape for carbon projects in the country. The new regulations will include updates to carbon taxes and new benefit sharing requirements that may increase the portion of project economics that are shared with the government and people of Mozambique. This may have a cooling effect on investment due to the reduction in free cash flows and lower returns to investors. That said, the government of Mozambique is crafting the regulation with an eye to promoting development of the sector and will likely pass rules that enable foreign investment at attractive returns. Many investors are in a holding pattern, and the new regulations will end speculation about future taxes and benefit sharing, and they may provide the increased certainty that enables these investors to begin deploying capital.

What should governments and/or donors embrace in the new year? Why? 

Governments and donors can continue to focus on creating an enabling environment to ensure community-centric investment in nature can happen quickly (given the urgency of this crisis!) and at scale.

Country governments should take a balanced approach to developing carbon credit regulations that will not dampen private sector action but also ensure that benefits are shared fairly with communities; donors should hasten the development of programs and financing mechanisms that help to de-risk projects to get them to market faster, such as early-stage financing facilities that can cover feasibility studies and the proper implementation of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) and safeguarding processes.

Don’t miss the Carbon Finance Playbook

“We’re at a critical fulcrum in the global energy transition. The world added 50% more renewable capacity in 2023 than in 2022, reaching almost 510 gigawatts. This transition will be most impactful and exciting in Africa where 600 million people still lack electricity and businesses are starved of reliable and affordable power. We are on the right track. But we need to accelerate.”

Matt Tilleard, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, CrossBoundary Group

All eyes

on AI

 

 

Charles Sweetland, Associate Principal, CrossBoundary Data Analytics

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

What are you most excited about for the year ahead?

Expanding CrossBoundary’s use of AI across its teams and enabling our colleagues to become “A players” in the human-machine collaboration space.

How will technology impact markets? 

Hugely! We’re expecting massive disruption from the advent of competent generative AI. ChatGPT4’s SAT exam results speak for themselves, and when there is a squeeze on talent in some of our markets, using these tools will help alleviate some of the difficulties we have in nurturing talent.

For instance, leveraging AI copilots enables us to ramp our ability to train new employees, oftentimes in a highly dynamic and interactive way. The exciting bit is we can focus more closely on an individual’s core skill set rather than assessing their technical ability or facility with rote memorization. In addition, AI models like ChatGPT enable people to learn and experiment with a counterpart that is non-judgmental. These are powerful tools for developing talent.

Which sector will have a breakout year in 2024?

Generative AI tools. As companies seek to gain the benefits of these exciting new technologies, we’ll see a lot of new startups streamlining the tech in new ways. For example, I imagine that companies with large customer bases can use chatbots far more efficiently, and bespoke offerings will be created on a country basis, allowing aspiring tech entrepreneurs to leverage GPTs.

What risks and/or opportunities should investors be cognizant of as we enter the new year?

They should know how the EU’s AI Act or the data protection agencies across Sub-Saharan Africa will impact their investments. In particular, how are the overheads of companies that investors are considering changing because of new compliance standards, and do they know the risks of non-compliance? Some fines are very scary, and look at penalties that are up to 2% share of global turnover!

In the East Africa region, we’ll see data protection agencies find their teeth and begin to fine companies exploiting current rules. In Kenya, this has already begun, but I expect this to spread across the East African community and move up companies’ agendas as fines get issued. 

What should governments and/or donors embrace in the new year? Why?

We should be looking for governments to make strides in using more data analytics in the investment facilitation work they commission. When preparing these mandates, data analytics components should incorporate workstreams wherein providers build capacity within their target companies. Governments will help build stronger, future-proofed economies and drive lasting impact by developing technical skills within companies seeking to raise investment, which will also improve trust from investors.

What are your predictions for the impact of climate change on your region in 2024?

We’ll see more problems in East Africa as climate change starts to bite and the realities set in for farmers and those whose livelihoods depend on the environment in which they were born. I can see this giving rise to a new generation of insurance products that donors and governments seek to fund to address the increasing regularity of extreme weather events.

 

More from CrossBoundary’s Data Analytics team

Colombia in the

climate spotlight

 

Jonathan Duarte, Head of Latin American and Caribbean Advisory

Location: Bogota, Colombia

Which sector in your region do you think has under-appreciated potential?

The Colombian climate action plan is a testament to the nation’s dedication to tackling the crisis. It aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 through regulatory reforms and strategic governmental commitments. In tandem, following the Paris Agreement, international DFIs have pledged to mobilize over $100 billion in capital towards climate change mitigation, with a strong emphasis on initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The pivot towards sustainable practices has garnered attention from key players such as The Nature ConservancyThe World Bank, and various impactful organizations, underscoring the value of multi-faceted support in scaling these initiatives.

What important events are scheduled in your market in 2024? How will they shape the investable landscape?

Colombia has been chosen as the host for the world’s most significant biodiversity summit, COP16, scheduled for October 21 to November 1, 2024. It’s a significant milestone for Colombia, which is home to 10% of the planet’s biodiversity.

COP16 is particularly notable as it follows the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework at COP15. This summit represents a crucial juncture where governments will review the implementation of this framework, aligning national biodiversity strategies and action plans with it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what COP16 has in store for Colombia and the region at large, and how we at CrossBoundary can contribute to the conversation.

 

Explore our work in Latin America and the Caribbean

“In 2024, I am most excited to continue building out a real estate platform with a focus on the youth in Africa. The youth are the demographic dividend of the continent and supporting them through providing safe, healthy, and affordable living spaces will go a long way in unlocking beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders.”

Bobby Patel, Head of Real Estate, CrossBoundary Educational Infrastructure

Diversified funding

sources in Africa

 

Olowo Aminu, Associate Principal, CrossBoundary Advisory

Location: Lagos, Nigeria

What important milestones do you anticipate for African markets in 2024?

The investment landscape on the continent is brimming with numerous possibilities for the new year. Some of the landmark events set to happen in 2024, with far-reaching impacts on investment activities in the region, include:

  • A $750 million facility approved by the World Bank Group to fund the provision of electricity to 17.5 million Nigerians through renewable energy sources. The facility, Nigeria Distributed Access through Renewable Energy Scale-up (DARES) project, will start operation in 2024 and is expected to attract over $1 billion in private capital. It is the largest distributed energy funding pool by the World Bank in Nigeria
  • A $10 billion Adjustment Fund by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), set to launch by mid-2024, to address shocks, losses, and disruptions arising from the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement. The fund will also be utilized to mobilize additional commercial funding from investors willing to capitalize on the opportunities created by the AfCFTA

Increased multisector support from Afreximbank especially in the creative and energy sectors to be demonstrated by:

  • The launch of a $1 billion fund to support filmmakers on the continent. The fund aims to attract co-financing from international investors and large film studios to bolster the growth of Africa’s creative sector
  • The launch of the Africa Energy Bank in June 2024. The bank is being established primarily to attract investment to support the development of the continent’s oil and gas sector

Which type of investors will play the biggest role?

I expect domestic investors to take center stage in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa as soaring interest rates, inflation, exchange rate pressures, and the perception of the region as a risky investment destination continue to deter foreign capital.

However, infrastructural projects, especially renewable energy initiatives, can expect to enjoy some level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) with the mobilization of $600 billion through the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, as well as increased climate financing activities on the continent.

Which sector do you see having a breakout year?

Solid minerals are a key raw material for the computer processing chips our increasingly digital world is hungry for. The renewable energy sector is also continuing to grow, driven by increasing climate concerns, and therefore needs specific elements for batteries and solar panels.

Solid minerals will gradually become the center of global attention and become the most important commodity market geopolitically. Activity in the sector, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is projected to experience significant growth as the world seeks to diversify and increase the global supply of rare earth metals and semiconductors.

In the medium to long term, I anticipate a rise in in-country processing of these raw materials as many African countries aspire to establish local value-addition opportunities and create jobs for their populace.

 

Want more insights from Olowo for 2024?

Data convergence

in US underserved markets

 

Nathan Kelly, Head of US Underserved Markets

Location: Washington, DC

What are you most excited about for the year ahead?

US Underserved Markets will see continued strength as funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the CHIPS Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill continues to roll out to projects across the US. Cities and states continue to build capacity for accessing funding through these major programs, with some helpful developments in how states and cities rationalize their project lists to raise capital for them, including Emerging Projects Agreements. We expect non-residential project starts and spending to continue above historic levels, and expand beyond the electronics and clean energy manufacturing starts (which have been given an extra boost under the CHIPs Act and IRA).

Opportunity Zones will continue to be under scrutiny to prove they can be impactful in truly underserved communities. Early critics of the program pointed out that relatively few opportunity zones had meaningful investment through 2020 (three years after the program began). At that point, 5% of opportunity zones had received 78% of the funding, with half receiving no investment at all. But proponents argue that transactions in the truly underserved markets take longer to close, and that those numbers will even out as the program continues. Proponents are right that transactions in truly underserved markets take longer (in fact, we’ve written a lot about that: Investment Facilitation Revisited) and that is starting to shine through in the data as more deals close, but it will take continued hard work from project proponents in the most underserved markets to fully realize the potential of the program. We hope more cities continue to adopt Opportunity Zone Prospectuses as first step, and then support those projects with targeted transaction support to get these deals done.

The second State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) program will continue to deploy capital into underserved communities through a variant of state-designed innovative vehicles. The first SSBCI program took place under the Obama Administration. We view the program as an important incubator for testing “what works” when deploying innovative finance approaches to spur economic growth in US Underserved Markets. Expect us to be following the results closely so we can integrate the learnings in our approaches to mobilizing capital in US Underserved Markets.

Aside from the election, what important milestones are going to occur in U.S. underserved markets in 2024? How will they shape the investable landscape?

The 2018 Farm Bill, which was set to expire in 2023, has been extended for another year as Congress continues to negotiate a new, 5-year bill. With crop insurance claims at record highs, dust storms – reminiscent of the dust bowl – making the front page, and increasing awareness and concern by consumers about the impact of agriculture on climate change and human health, we expect to see adjustments in incentivizes for farmers trying to build resilience in their systems through regenerative practices (specifically no-till, cover cropping, and organic). We expect to see enhancements to current conservation programs (EQIP, CSP, SARE), new programs (some of which are being piloted under Climate Smart Commodities Grants), as well as incremental changes to incentives under existing crop insurance and agriculture loan programs. We believe companies that support farmer transition to more regenerative/sustainable approaches will be well poised to take advantage of these, while farmland owners who have cracked the “regenerative operating system” will see tailwinds from government support.

How will technology impact your focus markets?

The gap between financial performance data and other data will become smaller. This will play out across a variety of markets and will reveal new opportunities for capital allocators to wisely deploy capital underserved markets.

In agriculture, the gap between agronomic data and financial performance data will continue to fall, allowing capital providers in the space to recognize financial returns stemming from regenerative practices. Specifically programs like the Environmental Defense Fund / Farmers Business Network loan program, The Nature Conservancy / Fractal.ag minority equity program, Mad Capital’s Perennial Fund, and several Climate Smart Commodities programs will help to drive this.

In historically underserved communities raising municipal finance, better data about what uses of proceeds drive long-term fiscal stability will reveal some bond issuances from communities with historically high demand to be higher-risk than previously priced, while some municipalities whose bonds have low or no demand will be revealed to be much lower risk than currently priced. Muni-fund managers and research firms who are at the forefront of this will be well-positioned to take advantage of these bond issuances while bringing attention to the attractiveness of historically underserved markets.

What risks and/or opportunities should investors be cognizant of as we enter the new year?

How climate risks and so-called “stroke of pen” risks overlap. Many climate risks require some heavy actuarial work to understand them. Investors should work hard to get their heads around these risks. But in some areas of the economy (farmland, coastal / fire-prone real estate, etc) old assumptions about access to water, insurance, and other features of an investment in the old climate could go away with one policy or regulatory decision (or “stroke of the pen”).

 

Explore CrossBoundary’s approach to investment facilitation