It is the smallest sovereign country in South America (it lies between Brazil, French Guiana, and Guyana), but Suriname has a lot to offer the impact investing community. Conservation: Wide swaths of the Amazon rainforest go untouched. 80% of the country is unspoiled. Natural resource wealth: Gold, aluminum and other metal and mineral operators have vested interests in the nation state. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Poverty reduction: Per capital annual income is less than $10,000. Less than 500,000 people live in Suriname, mostly in its capital Paramaribo, and “uncontacted” tribes still roam the deep jungle.
Solutions: Land conservation programs such as those devised by The Amazon Conservation Team to stave the encroachment of mining operators. Sustainable mining facilities. More education. 94% of children are enrolled in school. University training is lacking, however. Trade. Suriname only exports $1.4 billion worth of goods. Its natural resource wealth could be a model for sustainable trade and could increase financial and natural capital reserves.
Notable Social Enterprises: The Skoll Foundation, which funds the work of social entrepreneur The Amazon Conservation Team. Ecotourism operators that provide exposure and education—kinetic appreciation. And through a scholarship program, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs is reaching out to 15 social entrepreneurs in Brazil, China, Jamaica, Russia, and Suriname. Social entrepreneurs face two key challenges—securing capital to grow their enterprises and having access to local expertise to continually develop their businesses. The scholarships are bringing the entrepreneurs together with existing networks of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial support organizations, and investors. The roundtables, conferences, and training will focus on business metrics and investment management, which are two key entrepreneurial skills required to seek funding from different sources for investment and demonstrate results to investors.
Ways to Invest: Direct. Although there are rumors of an impact investment fund and a pharmaceutical development program (PDP) being launched. PDPs are nonprofit organizations with scientific, technical, clinical development and policy expertise that manage and advance portfolios of global health products.
Cool Idea: Skoll Entrepreneur Dr. Mark Plotkin’s thesis that by showing the medicinal qualities of the rainforest to the world (as a base for western medicine and disease prevention) we should be compelled to preserve the rainforest. Otherwise we will destroy the natural test lab for our species and, in turn, our species.
The Social Return: Because Suriname is so tiny it could serve as a biosphere model project that incorporates trade and commerce. As well, incomes and population are low so any increase is a massive stride for health and human welfare.
The Financial Return: The Investment and Development Corporation in Suriname predicts 6% real growth rate for the next five consecutive years largely driven by the mining industry (Alcoa, IAMGOLD and Newmont).