Gender Lens Investing Initiative

Phatisa is a Mauritius domiciled, sector-specific African private equity fund manager located in and operating across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Overview of Organization

Phatisa is a Mauritius domiciled, sector-specific African private equity fund manager located in and operating across sub-Saharan Africa. The firm currently has three funds under management, totaling more than US $400 million, focused on food and affordable housing. In October 2018, Phatisa Food Fund 2 first closed at US $121.5 million and is expected to reach a final close target of US $300 million.

Our impact investing strategy is to contribute positively to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 2: Zero Hunger (through food funds) and SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (through an affordable housing fund). We are also primarily committed to addressing SDG 1: No Poverty by raising funds to invest in inclusive business models across the African continent – that is, in businesses that link smallholder farmers, micro-entrepreneurs and small-medium enterprises to the business value chain in meaningful ways that result in increased income for these groups.

Overview of Gender Lens Investing (GLI) Approach

Our definition of gender lens investing is aligned with the GIIN’s definition: investment strategies applied to an allocation or to the entirety of an investment portfolio, which seek to examine gender dynamics to better inform investment decisions and/or intentionally and measurably address gender disparities[1].

Our approach to gender equitable investing – the gender lens we apply to our investment process and portfolio management – is a commitment to SDG 5: Gender Equality and is reflected in our efforts to provide suitable work conditions that support and encourage equal employment opportunities for women. For our latest fund (Phatisa Food Fund 2), we have adopted a specific target to ensure that 100% of our portfolio companies have a gender policy and targets to increase female employment significantly from the baseline. Specifically, we aim to double female employment if the baseline female employment rate is below 15%, with specific targets for skill level employment type).

Motivation for the Strategy/Fund

The business case for improved gender diversity in our portfolio companies, within the fund manager (Phatisa), and among stakeholders in our value chain is clear: women make up half of the world’s population and including them in economic activity provides all the benefits of a more diverse workforce to the relevant business, as research has shown[2]. We have always known that investing in gender equality is the right thing to do but anchoring our efforts around SDG 5 as part of an internal SDG campaign has helped crystalize our thinking and formalize our goals and approach. Importantly, we have a theory of change, which postulates that women are more likely to spend money in ways that benefit their families and communities – on food, education and healthcare, for example – leading to improved living standards. Therefore, we believe that in creating opportunities for women we are empowering societies.

Gender risks are considered as part of the due diligence stage of a deal. Gender disparity in the workforce can lead to reduced productivity[3] and it can also lead to missed opportunities resulting from a lack of diverse perspectives. We also consider the willingness of the portfolio company’s management to achieve our gender commitments and targets at the due diligence stage, perceiving reluctance to be a risk to diversity and to the business.

Due to a local stigma around women doing certain types of jobs, including operating heavy machinery, building construction, and manufacturing, many of the portfolio companies in Phatisa’s food and housing funds have primarily employed men. Achieving buy-in for gender equality in a male-dominated space can be slow, but we are really starting to gather momentum in terms of support for gender lens initiatives, among the fund managers and within portfolio companies. We have found that having a mutual commitment to the SDGs makes it easier to achieve buy-in. Phatisa’s gender lens investing strategy has been well-received by investors and investees alike. We have seen a 76% increase in female employment across all funds under management since investment, indicating that progress is being made in the portfolio companies to address gender inequalities in the workforce.

Impact Measurement and Management (IMM)

The metrics used to measure the impact of our activities towards SDG 5 include: percent female ownership; percent female employees (permanent); percent female employees (temporary/casual); training hours (females compared to males); gender wage equity; smallholder suppliers (female); SME suppliers (female); payments to female suppliers; and a number of governance/policy indicators, such as the presence of an anti-discrimination policy and sexual harassment policy and procedures.

IMM tools used and steps taken in our IMM practice include: (1) screening and scoring deals for potential impacts on women; (2) identification of risks and opportunities relating to gender equality during the due diligence process; (3) inclusion of significant material impact opportunities in 100-day plans after concluding an investment, where relevant; (4) conducting baseline studies to be able to track changes in benefits for women; (5) quarterly and annual data requests to portfolio companies; (6) annual on-site data verification; (7) design and implementation of projects designed to enhance our contribution to SDG 5; (8) ongoing review of efficacy of projects and efforts to make them self-sustaining; (9) annual reporting on impact performance.

Lessons Learned

We are still in the early stages of implementing our gender lens strategy, so we have yet to capture substantial learnings. However, we suspect that we will continue to face headwinds as we try to gain portfolio company buy-in on the need to address gender disparities in the workplace as well as supply and distribution chains. We may also learn lessons about our female customers once we apply a gender lens to our marketing strategies.

One notable lesson we have learned so far is on how biased gender perceptions around types of work have pigeonholed women into specific roles in the workplace. One example of this was found at a Rwandan portfolio company’s construction site, where women who had historically been doing low-skilled jobs were offered the opportunity to shadow more qualified male co-workers after management learned of the female workers’ interest in this opportunity. This led to the establishment of an on-site job training program, which has resulted in women acquiring a higher skill set as well as a higher salary after graduating from the apprentice program. We found another example of this in Sierra Leone with extension officers who ride motorbikes as their main mode of transportation, covering a 40-mile radius, to conduct site visits to train and support outgrower/smallholder farmers on efficient and effective farming practices. After engaging with potential extension officers to break down some of the biases around women riding motorbikes and training farmers, we had three women join our group of approximately 21 officers.

Best practice for our organization will be to apply our gender policy within Phatisa and across our portfolios, and to work with portfolio companies to set achievable targets to improve their gender performance, with tangible results being evidenced. We will continue to review and amend policies and procedures, with an objective that they promote gender equality and present no barriers to attracting women into the business/investee company. We will also assess the workplace environment to ensure that there are no barriers to retaining and/or promoting women in the business. We will review remuneration and benefit structures to ensure equitable compensation, and where applicable, conduct unconscious bias training for management and the general workforce.

Organizational Snapshot

Organization Type Private Equity Fund Manager

Geography/Jurisdiction (HQ)

Sub-Saharan Africa

Fund Type Growth; sector-focused

Size (AUM) – Impact Investments

US $400 million

Direct or Indirect Investments

Direct and one indirect – a subsidiary SME fund with an independent fund manager

GLI Strategy Structure

Integrated across portfolios

Geographic Focus

Emerging Markets – Sub-Saharan Africa

Impact themes

Food security (SDG 2); Affordable housing (SDG 11); raise and invest in African businesses with a view to incorporating inclusive business models (SDGs 1; 8); gender equality (SDG 5); jobs creation and skills development (SDG 8); safeguarding the environment and addressing climate change (SDGs 12, 13, 14, 15)

SDGs Targeted

SDG 1: No Poverty; SGD 2: Zero Hunger; SDG 5: Gender Equality; SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities; SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG13: Climate Action; SDG 14: Life Below Water; SDG 15: Life on Land; SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions; SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Technical Assistance Facility Technical assistance facility for the African Agriculture Fund Euro 10 million funded by the European Union

Size of Investments


Food Fund: US $10-30 million

Housing Fund: US $2-10 million

Target Return

Phatisa Food Fund 2: Net IRR early to mid-twenties


[1] The GIIN’s Gender Lens Investing Initiative:

[2] The GIIN’s Gender Lens Investing Resource Repository:

[3] ibid.

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