8 Women with a new vision for Earth

Vera Songwe


The Financier

Chair and founder, Liquidity and Sustainability Facility, and co-chair, Independent High Level Expert Group on Climate Finance

Through her career at a series of international and financial organizations, Cameroonian economist and banking executive Vera Songwe has discovered a simple truth: it’s expensive to be a poor country.

In particular, some African countries have found themselves excluded from capital markets due to the high costs of borrowing money.

So, she decided to do something about it. 

The Liquidity and Sustainability Facility (LSF), which Songwe chairs, was founded to break this vicious cycle of financial exclusion and to unlock green financing for Africa’s transition toward a more prosperous and sustainable tomorrow.

“Access to affordable capital is the only way to invest in sustainable development,” says Songwe, who envisions a future where the climate crisis is kept in check and less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives below the poverty line.

Despite the challenges, she is optimistic. Better institutions and investments in human capital have driven remarkable development gains in the past three decades, and technological advances can speed up progress, she says. “That is, provided we protect the planet as we improve economic outcomes.”

She calls on policymakers to recognize – and price – the contribution that ecosystems like the Congo Basin peatlands make to planetary health.

This could be done through transparent, well-governed carbon markets, argues Songwe, who is a member of the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM) and has led the creation of the African Carbon Market Initiative.

A career at the crossroads of finance, climate and inclusive development in Africa has seen Songwe co-author influential reports on climate finance for the UN COP27 and COP28 climate summits.

She’s also held top jobs at the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank and the UN Economic Commission for Africa and advised scores of leaders on issues like monetary policy, financial innovation and trade.

In 2022, Songwe was named “African Icon of the Year” by the African Bankers Association, and she recently received the 2024 Women Pioneer Award by the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) Network. She has also featured in several rankings of the most influential people across the region.
“I remain convinced that the development challenges faced by countries can be overcome,” says the economist, who now serves as a co-chair of the Food System Economics Commission, an independent interdisciplinary academic commission that equips political and economic decision makers with tools and evidence to shift food and land use systems.