Inspired Evolution Investment Management said Tuesday it has raised ZAR$400 million ($48.1 million) to launch the first private equity cleantech fund in South Africa.

The South African firm, located in Cape Town, closed the round in July from International Finance Corp. (part of the World Bank Group), Castleway Properties, the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets and the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation.

Inspired Evolution plans to make its first investment before the end of 2008 through what it has named its Evolution One Fund. One of the company's executive directors and principals, Christopher Clarke, said he is interested in putting money in concentrated solar power plants, including solar-thermal projects, the company told Reuters.

The company has been in discussions about investing in those types of projects with Eskom, a state-owned utility in South Africa that supplies 95 percent of the electricity used in the country, Clarke said.

Evolution One joins a growing number of cleantech funds in the African continent. AfricInvest Capital Partners, based in Tunisia, recently raised €60 million ($84.38 million) for its AfricInvest II fund from the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets, IFC, Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and others. AfricInvest Capital aims to raise an additional  €60 million ($84.38 million).

Sindicatum Carbon Capital in London also raised $280 million earlier this year to fund solar, wind power and other projects that could be eligible to sell carbon-emission credits (see Sindicatum Raises $280M for Carbon-Offset Projects).

Raising capital could prove more difficult now that the U.S. financial market is in turmoil, and has begun to impact the global markets. 

Low Carbon Accelerator, a British cleantech investment firm, said Tuesday it has postponed fund-raising plans because of the bearish financial markets, reported Reuters.

Meanwhile, investors pumped $148 billion into new renewable energy projects worldwide in 2007, compared with $92.6 billion in 2006, according to a report prepared by the New Energy Finance for the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). In 2005, greentech investments reached $58.5 billion,

Inspired Evolution will not only make investments within South Africa. It intends to put money in projects across the South African Development Region, a consortium of 12 countries. The private equity firm said it intends to make 10 to 15 investments in the region within five years.

In addition to solar power, Inspired Evolution plans to invest in sectors including clean water, waste management, organic health products, green-building technologies and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Inspired Evolution is raising more money for the fund and aims to increase its total amount to ZAR$1 billion ($120.21 million) by July 2009.

The firm was formed by Consensus Business Group, Pan-African Capital Holdings, Alluvia Group and Capital Evolution.