The Brief | April 20, 2020

The Brief: Impact management principles, Africa’s health startups, Ceniarth’s catalytic capital for rural lenders, Beeck Center’s impact job matching

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Making the mark in impact management. The International Finance Corp. launched the Operating Principles for Impact Management a year ago to combat “impact washing” and bring “greater transparency, credibility, and discipline to the impact investing market” (see, A deadline looms for transparency in impact investing). Tideline is sponsoring Agents of Impact Call No. 15 this week to share results from a dozen verifications of asset managers’ alignment with the principles. ImpactAlpha’s David Bank and Dennis Price will host the discussion with Tideline’s Christina Leijonhufvud, Nuveen’s Allison Spector, LeapFrog Investments’ Roshni Bandesha, and Alan Rousso of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Thursday April 23 at 9am PT / 12pm ET / 5pm London. RSVP today.

Double Feature: ImpactAlpha Originals

COVID pandemic gives Africa’s health tech startups a chance to shine. Africa’s health systems may have an advantage in the fight against COVID: previous experience mobilizing around outbreaks of infectious diseases. Africa’s growing ecosystem of health startups are redirecting their products and mobilizing services to help public health systems stay ahead. The homegrown solutions are engineered to bolster – or work around – the systematic shortcomings of many national healthcare networks. “The public health infrastructure is better than people might assume,” acknowledges Michael Moreland of Field Intelligence, a drug-supply forecasting and logistics company that operates in Nigeria and Kenya. “They are better prepared for infectious disease, and they take it very seriously because it happens here all the time.”

With the continent poised to become the pandemic’s next epicenter, startups are pivoting quickly to support Africa’s response to the immediate crisis and the continent’s health systems more broadly. Field Intelligence is ensuring that mom-and-pop pharmacies can continue serving customers and financially weather business disruptions from local lockdowns. Kenyan pharmacy chain Goodlife is testing a prescription delivery service, expanding virtual consultations, and ramping up production of its own brand of hand sanitizer. Nigeria-based DrugStoc is retooling its pharmaceutical supply chain to provide frontline health workers with access to personal protective equipment. LifeBank is building an open-source repository of medical supplies. “This is what they’re designed to do,” says Victoria Fabunmi of social tech accelerator Co-Creation Hub, which supports DrugStoc and LifeBank. “They do what’s needed to respond to gaps.”

Keep reading, “COVID pandemic gives Africa’s healthtech startups a chance to shine,” by Jessica Pothering on ImpactAlpha.

With zero-interest loans and deposits, wealthy families rush capital to rural lenders and impoverished communities. The single-family office Ceniarth is committing $3 million in zero-interest loans to help community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, accelerate lending to communities largely neglected by the federal government’s COVID relief program for small businesses. The allocation, along with deposits in a Mississippi-based credit union, demonstrates how impact investors can help bridge gaps in the federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, by giving community-based lenders the liquidity they need to move quickly and serve a broader range of businesses. Ceniarth has so far enlisted Candide Group and Money in Motion, two other wealthy family offices, and hopes to ultimately inject at least $10 million into rural CDFIs. The liquidity lets the nonprofit lenders build a pipeline of loan applications to submit quickly as soon as the federal relief program is re-funded (the PPP’s first allocation of $349 billion ran out last week; a congressional deal for a $300 billion replenishment seemed close on Sunday).

Ceniarth’s initial commitment will extend the lending power of the Rural Community Assistance Corp., which will also process loans for other CDFIs serving Appalachia, the rural South and Native communities. “This is going to be another race,” Ceniarth’s Greg Neichen told ImpactAlpha. “What’s needed right now is fast, cheap-to-free money so that CDFIs can make these advances.” Ceniarth, with about $400 million in assets, is an advocate of “impact-first capital preservation” strategies. Ceniarth is seeking to demonstrate low-risk catalytic investments that high-net-worth family offices can easily add to their portfolios. “There’s an entire persistent-poverty part of the economy that is always left out,” says Neichen. “Whenever these programs are set up, there is never consideration for how to get dollars into these most vulnerable communities.”

Keep reading, “With zero-interest loans and deposits, wealthy families rush capital to rural lenders and impoverished communities,” by Amy Cortese on ImpactAlpha.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Andela co-founder launches Future Africa Collective for Africa’s everyday investors. Andela trains and hires African coders to fill global companies’ technical skills gaps. Co-founder Iyin Aboyeji launched Future Africa to encourage Africans themselves to invest in homegrown tech talent. He accelerated the launch to help startups weather the COVID crash. “The question was ‘how do we maintain resilience [of the ecosystem] by quickly figuring out alternative funding sources’,” Aboyeji told Quartz Africa.

New York nonprofit relief fund disburses 60% of funds in under a month. The $75 million NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, administered by the New York Community Trust and the Nonprofit Finance Fund, has distributed $44 million in grants and zero-interest loans to 276 New York City-based social services and arts and cultural nonprofits affected by the coronavirus public health crisis (see, Agent of Impact: Antony Bugg-Levine, Nonprofit Finance Fund).

National Cooperative Bank tallies $352 million in low-income community commitments. The lender to cooperatives and social organizations invested $181 million in affordable housing initiatives. Another $43 million backed commercial real estate development serving low-income areas.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

The Beeck Center at Georgetown University launches the Impact Community Job Matching Platform to match students with open roles in the industry…  Eivind Lorgen of Nordea Asset Management and Hans Op ’t Veld of PGGM were named chair and vice chair, respectively, of SASB’s investor advisory group… Bridges Fund Management is looking for an investment director of development impact bonds in London… Convergence is hiring a senior associate of market acceleration in Toronto.

Thank you for reading.

–Apr. 20, 2020