UK’s CDC Group recruits Myanmar investment experts

Britain’s development finance agency CDC Group has hired a Myanmar team led by two private sector professionals to expand its footprint in the country and boost investments in renewable energy and social projects.

CDC, wholly owned by the UK government aid agency, has hired U Myo Zin of Luminate as its new country manager and investment expert U Thura Ko Ko as adviser.

CDC has investments in over 1200 businesses in emerging economies with total net assets of £5.8 billion but its presence in Myanmar has been limited. Total investments in Myanmar, inclusive of equity, fund and debt, amount to £75 million. It has injected capital into funds managed by Delta Capital, Anthem Asia and Insitor, as well as Irrawaddy Green Towers.

This year CDC will invest over £1.5 billion in companies in Africa and Asia with a declared focus on fighting climate change, empowering women and creating new jobs.

The two hires will help drive CDC’s aim to scale up its portfolio in Myanmar in line with Britain’s two-pronged approach of supporting economic development while sanctioning individuals responsible for human rights abuses.

Head of UK aid in Myanmar Rurik Marsden said the appointment of U Myo Zin underlines the “desire to make responsible and sustainable investments in the economy that help the poorest and most vulnerable.”

U Myo Zin will focus on broadening CDC’s capital investments in Myanmar and help facilitate the organisation’s commitment to increasing investment flows and advancing the development of its private sector, the agency says. He is the former country representative for Luminate and Omidyar Network and built its investment pipeline and portfolio of high impact organisations.

U Thura Ko Ko is a partner in advisory firm YGA Capital, which advises global private equity major TPG on Myanmar. TPG is among the biggest private investors in the Southeast Asian country.

CDC’s ex-Myanmar chief Daw Thiri Thant Mon has recently been appointed CEO of the Myanmar Institute of Directors, replacing Ma Cherry Trivedi. Daw Thiri is the founder of Pegu Partners, a Yangon-based capital and investment advisory firm.

The move also signals the UK government’s intentions to build a closer economic relationship with Myanmar after the November parliamentary elections, in which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party are widely expected to secure a second term in office.

CDC’s stated emphasis on fighting climate change and developing a responsible private sector also matches the economic priorities of Daw Suu, who called on international investors to “ensure that their investments are responsible by incorporating environmental, social and governance factors into their investment and business undertakings.”

The UK government has slapped sanctions on top Tatmadaw generals in response to their 2017 crackdown against Muslims in northern Rakhine but decided to keep Myanmar’s trade privileges, a policy that is currently under review by the European Union.

Pressure is building on companies to show that their operations are not complicit in rights abuses and make a positive contribution to the country. Danish shipping giant Maersk this month decided to stop using military-owned ports, telling this newspaper that it is “cognisant” of recommendations from the UN, whose investigators have called on companies to cut ties with military-linked businesses.

Myanmar recently launched its first solar farm tender, a move that signals a possible transition in the underdeveloped energy industry towards renewables and away from coal and gas.
Last month, investment minister U Thaung Tun indicated that the government intends to “capitalise on Myanmar’s potential for green investment in sectors such as
energy and infrastructure.”

But whether CDC can effectively drum up investments also depends on government policies that have been attacked by civil society organisations and business groups as deterring investors with a genuine commitment to good governance and human rights.

CDC’s US$30 million investment in Frontiir, the first equity investment it committed in Myanmar, recently came under fire from British opposition Labour Party spokesperson for international development Stephen Doughty for censoring websites on orders from the government.

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Source : Myanmar Times

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