Exclusive: UNOPS targeting $1bn for impact infra fund

The UN agency wants to attract institutional capital to fund environmental and social infrastructure projects across the developing world.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the United Nations’ operational arm, is preparing to launch a $1 billion impact infrastructure fund targeting institutional capital, UNOPS social investments specialist Meredith Sanna told Infrastructure Investor.

The fund will focus on environmental projects – such as renewables, waste management and water – and social infrastructure – including healthcare, education facilities and social housing – across the developing world. The latter, according to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014, needs up to $2.8 trillion annually to combat climate change and provide its inhabitants with access to clean water and sanitation.

Sanna said the fund will focus primarily on equity investments, although it could also potentially do some debt investments. It will seek to attract capital from pensions, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, family offices, foundations and development finance institutions.

The kind of projects the fund could invest in include a $200 million solar farm in Uganda, being developed in partnership with Danish solar developer DanSolar; a $100 million investment with Philips to build healthcare clinics in Kenya, as part of the firm's Community Life Centres programme; and a $120 million waste management programme with the Palestinian Authority.

While the impact fund, which should come to market within the next six to 12 months, is a first for UNOPS the agency is no stranger to attracting donor and government financing. As the only self-financed agency of the United Nations, UNOPS runs some 1,200 projects across the globe with an annual turnover of $1.4 billion. The agency employs almost 8,000 people.