The Cities Investment Facility at UN-Habitat


The Cities Investment Facility (CIF)

My decision to join Cities Investment Facility (CIF) came after an opportune brown-bag session with Dyfed Aubrey, an Inter-regional Advisor at UN-Habitat. These brown bags are the latest addition to the UN-habitat curriculum, a great way of connecting us newcomers with those that have years of experience.

Dyfed has years of experience. Having worked in a range of environments on countless human settlement projects, one of his most recent undertakings is serving as the program manager for the Cities Investment Facility, UN-Habitat’s new sustainable finance initiative.

I had been with UN-Habitat for 2 months then. During that time, I mostly worked with innovative technologies relating to urbanization. I was Alice in Wonderland, Callahan at sea. With little prior experience/knowledge in AI, blockchain, and anything digital tech-related, I relished (with caution) the exhilarating foreignity of it all. Foreignity is what I seek-I’m a big fan of the unknown.

When I became aware of the CIF, I immediately contacted Katja Schaefer, my supervisor, to introduce me to the team. I wanted to integrate my newly developed digital tech knowledge with something more far-reaching, more hands-on. I don’t think you can get any more hands-on than finance. Moreover, CIF’s sustainable finance mandate drew me in. Sustainable finance is hip, sustainable finance is in. Sustainable finance is highly detached from my International Relations/Public Governance background. It perfectly fits within my scope of interest.

The Cities Investment Facility was established in 2020. It uses three key instruments to bridge the divide between investors and the lack of funding towards government-led sustainable urban development projects. The three components of CIF are:

  1. The Cities Investment Portal (CI Portal), which allows city officials to reach out to investors, bringing together a community of stakeholders at the ideation stage. The Portal will display information about available projects, host a grant platform, and a knowledge hub.
  2. The Cities Investment Advisory Platform (CIAP), an incubated initiative advising pre-feasibility and upstream project preparation and design, bankability, and SDG-impact.
  3. The Cities Investment Vehicles (CI Vehicles), which are brokers that can pool blended sources of capital to finance de-risked, bankable, and sustainable urbanization projects.

Who Sleeps?

I’ve been a part of the CIF team for a month now. I don’t think anyone sleeps.

Erastus Njuki, who leads our small intern group, coordinates all Cities Investment Facility-related efforts. As the Personal Assistant to UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, Erastus wears many hats. Somehow, he’s always available for advice and feedback.

Janus, who is joining from Chile, has been leading the project selection process and many other Cities Investment Facility efforts. It will be noon here in Amman, noon in Nairobi, and probably the crack of the dawn in Santiago, but I still see his emails come through.

Parsa, who just ‘left’ us, is still wandering through sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the completion of his internship with UNH, Parsa still offers support to the sometimes, capacity-restricted CIF team.

On Sustainable Finance at the Cities Investment Facility

I am still a fish out of water, Callahan at sea.

Shuai-Shuai, slowly-slowly, as my Jordanian roommates tell me. Slowly-slowly will I better grasp the sustainable finance lingo and the sustainable development sector. Slowly-slowly will I better understand the complexity of the impact investment sphere.

But, I have become familiar with the SDG and ESG indicators. I have added words like bankability, SRI, de-risking, and upstream/downstream preparation to my vocabulary. I became aware of the fact that a key barrier to the lack of sustainable infrastructure funding, is in the project preparation process. How can we better connect the two dots-the money and the projects? The resources and the needs?

This is just the beginning. Let’s see.

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