“We have a fantastic opportunity to work together,” Dr. Kim told hundreds of investors at the 15th Annual Global Private Equity Conference,  hosted by the Bank Group’s private sector arm IFC  and the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association  (EMPEA).
“…Private equity is going to play a critical role in whether or not we can truly have high aspirations for the 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty in the world,” he said in a speech that was liveblogged  and followed on Twitter with #wblive and #GPEC2013.
More than 800 leading private-equity investors, institutional investors, representatives from development institutions and government agencies are in Washington for the two-day conference on the opportunities and benefits of investing in emerging markets.
Such investments grew to $320 billion over the last decade, but that’s still a small portion of the total $2.7 trillion in private equity globally – and a fraction of the total assets managed by institutions around the world. EMPEA members alone have total assets under management of about $1 trillion.
Dr. Kim said if more private equity could be tapped for emerging markets, the world would have a better chance of achieving two ambitious goals endorsed by the Bank Group’s member countries at the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings in April: Reducing extreme poverty to 3% globally by 2030; and boosting incomes for the bottom 40% in every country.
That’s partly because official development assistance – which amounts to $125 billion annually—can’t alone meet huge infrastructure and other needs in the developing world and must be spent wisely in countries that have trouble attracting private investment, he said.
And it’s also because private equity funds in emerging markets typically finance small and medium businesses that create jobs, build a sense of shared prosperity, and help economies grow.
“If you focus on ending poverty – if you lift people out of poverty…you’re strengthening societies and preventing the kind of instability we’re seeing in so many places,” said Dr. Kim.
IFC has invested $2.7 billion in 153 private equity funds, with a 20 percent annual rate of return. The funds support 1,100 companies, creating an average 584 jobs each.
Now, IFC wants to bring more private finance to the poorest countries – a move the Bank Group believes can have a “truly transformational impact,” Dr. Kim said.
“We’re not going to be able to lift people out of poverty or to reduce the vulnerability of the bottom 40 percent unless people in this room feel comfortable, confident and really good about the investments they’re making in the developing world,” he said.