Finding New Currents in Development Finance

Reflections from the Loans, Bonds and ESG Conference

Celine at Bonds and Loans

Our partner and supporter of the Change Maker Award, Cygnum Capital invited scholar Celine Masheleni to attend their Loans, Bonds and ESG Conference in Cape Town recently. Celine has a background in Development, and is doing a PhD in Sociology at the University of Cape Town. She shares some reflections of the experience.

Day 1 – A fish out of water

As an academic accustomed mainly to research-intensive and academic circles,  corporate spaces can feel intimidating at first. I found myself gravitating primarily to the plenary room where in-depth discussions about financing, and capital markets provoked my critical thinking. Surrounded by professionals immersed in these topics, I felt both challenged but also deeply intrigued.

The highlight of my day was engaging with the Absa stand at their interactive sustainability quiz which highlighted how companies and corporations are incorporating sustainability within their activities. I also had the opportunity to network with some young black women working within the space over lunch- we sustained an inspiring dialogue about the development of South Africa and African countries, and the role of financial institutions.

Day 2 – Swimming in fresh tides

Feeling more comfortable and confident on the second day, I eagerly looked forward to the lineup of talks. The morning started with an intriguing speech by Vusi Thembekwayo, who delivered on changing consumer landscapes due to the impacts of technology. This was particularly interesting to me because of my own research on technology’s impacts on society. Thembekwayo spoke of a shift from demographics to psychographics, which speaks of the ways in which technology influences consumer behaviour and provides much food for thought. It was interesting to see the opportunities that corporations saw in these shifts, where I held more conservative reservations. Additionally, I found the discussions on climate sustainability and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to be very engaging. As someone typically focused on narratives within the informal economy, it was enlightening to hear what the formal side of the economy thinks about movement of goods and capital.

Overall, the conference proved to be a rewarding experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions, networking opportunities, and insights gained. I’m thankful to Cygnum Capital for the invitation and their warm welcome into the space, as well as their commendable support of the Canon Collins Trust.