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Our CEO Alix Zwane at the Commonwealth Innovation Open Day

Posted 5th August 2019

Our CEO Alix Zwane was delighted to speak at the Commonwealth Innovation Open Day alongside Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland.

The inaugural event showcased novel initiatives and tools to support member states, including the Commonwealth Innovation Fund.

Launched by Alix Zwane and Baroness Scotland at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2018, the Commonwealth Innovation Fund’s mission is to support entrepreneurs and innovators in emerging nations of the Commonwealth Family, with a particular focus on changing the lives of those living on less than $5 per day in developing countries of the Commonwealth through innovation.

Alix said: “The Commonwealth Innovation Fund will invest capital from the most prosperous nations of the Commonwealth to drive prosperity and equality for all nations in this family, and in this network. This will be a fund that will find, invest in, and support the great entrepreneurs and innovators across the Commonwealth with ideas and vision for their own countries to improve the lives of their citizens.”

GIF CEO Alix Zwane at the Commonwealth Innovation Open Day

As part of her speech, Alix highlighted that since April 2018 GIF has been preparing for the delivery of this audacious endeavour, and stands ready to turn vision into reality. First, the Commonwealth Innovation Fund will make use of GIF’s established investment process, and our focus on rigorous evidence of impact potential. Alix said: “We know how to invest public money, we put the highest standards of diligence at the core of our investment process, and ensure that we operate a lean model to deliver value for money.”

Second, although GIF’s track record of making great investments in Commonwealth countries is strong; to truly deliver the vision of the Commonwealth Innovation Fund, we need to be at the very heart of the regions in which we seek to make investments. GIF knows the importance of going where innovators are and cares deeply about investing in local entrepreneurs with the best chance of long-term success and social impact. As a result, we are excited to announce two new GIF offices in Africa and Asia.

Alix said: “Opening new regional offices in Singapore and Nairobi will allow us to find and fund great innovations in Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa. These hubs will source innovation investment opportunities that will enter the Commonwealth Innovation Fund portfolio. From these offices, we will form strategic partnerships with local innovators, investors, and governments, to best support innovations on their pathway to impact and scale. These hubs will help us to ever improve the quality of our investment selection, intelligence, and support in-market. I want to thank the UK mission in Nairobi and Australia mission in Asia-Pacific who are great partners to GIF.”

Concluding her speech, Alix emphasised the bold vision for the Commonwealth Innovation Fund bestowed by Baroness Scotland. With the help of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the backing of Baroness Scotland, Alix stated that GIF wants to engage a diverse group of funders from across the Commonwealth to back great ideas and support innovators on their journey under the Commonwealth Innovation Fund: our current funders, new donor countries, emerging middle-income countries, and others.

Alix said: “We know that many of the Commonwealth governments are already donors with an innovation agenda and we would welcome your support. We can invest your funds smartly, maximising social impact, opportunity and prosperity across the Commonwealth of Nations. I have witnessed how GIF’s existing fund investors from the governments of the UK, Australia, and Canada, can help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and their impact, and how we as an independent partner can help drive their agendas.”

Alix closed by saying all at GIF are indebted to Baroness Scotland and the Commonwealth secretariat for the vision and energy they have brought to this partnership, and to the member states, for putting innovation at the heart of their agenda, and drive our shared agenda. Alix said: “I hope our collaboration in the Commonwealth Innovation Fund will be a model for how countries can work together to deliver change.”

The first Commonwealth Innovation Open Day took place at Marlborough House in London, follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #connectedcommonwealth


Commonwealth Innovation Open Day delegates