The Brief | September 28, 2022

The Brief: Today’s Call: Gender smart in emerging markets, investing in East Africa’s refugees, independent media in Nigeria, clean energy action in Pittsburgh

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

👋 Zoom in to today’s Call. A new generation of women fund managers in emerging markets is changing the landscape of who and what gets funded – and who decides. From South Africa, Africa Trust Group’s Lelemba Phiri is helping ventures – and other fund managers – grow beyond seed stage. In Mexico, Amplifica Capital’s Anna Raptis is backing female tech founders in agriculture, education, clean energy and women’s health. In Tunisia, Leila Charfi is launching gender-lens fund Actawa Ventures in partnership with Investisseurs & Partenaires in France. With Nicole Garcia of USAID Invest and GenderSmart’s Suzanne Biegel, they’ll explore the innovative ways women-led funds in emerging markets are raising and deploying high-impact capital. Join “Creative capital for gender-smart investments,” with ImpactAlpha’s Jessica Pothering and David Bank, today at 9am PT / 12pm ET / 6pm Cape Town. Zoom right in (no RSVP necessary).

Featured: People on the Move

Displaced East Africans remake camps into testbeds for refugee-lens investing. The Kakuma refugee camp in a remote area of northwest Kenya is a hub of economic activity – and a signal of the investable opportunities to better serve refugees in East Africa and around the world. Even while Kenya’s government pressures the U.N. to close the camp, Kakuma shelters nearly 200,000 refugees and displaced people from Somalia, South Sudan and other countries. The more than 2,000 small and mid-sized businesses operating in the vast camp and surrounding areas generate tens of millions of dollars in annual sales and employ tens of thousands of people. Globally, more than 100 million people have been displaced from their homes, creating large, underserved markets of consumers and a pipeline of micro, small and medium-sized businesses seeking to serve them. “A field of practice is taking root in East Africa,” says John Kluge, a founder of Refugee Investment Network which, together with Acumen, is convening investors, companies and other development actors at this week’s Refugee Lens Investing Summit in Nairobi. 

Despite the economic vibrancy, entrepreneurs and business owners in camps like Kakuma are underserved by banks and other financial institutions. Seizing the opportunity are impact investors like Kenya Climate Ventures and Acumen, which are focusing on companies led by, employing, or serving displaced people. “When you invest with a refugee lens, you are providing an opportunity for refugees to participate in decision-making of their own economic growth through entrepreneurship,” says Victor Ndiege of Kenya Climate Ventures, which has made three investments in the Kakuma camp, including Rafode, which provides financing to 4,500 clients for products like energy efficient cookstoves and solar lighting. Acumen this year graduated 14 ventures in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda that serve displaced people. At this week’s summit, Acumen will recognize the accelerator’s top performers, including Kakuma Ventures, founded by Congolese refugee Innocent Tshilombo, which operates inside the camp, installing wifi for refugees and host communities. Patient capital, Acumen’s Jacqueline Novogratz tells ImpactAlpha, can “support and catalyze refugee-lens investments that are hiring, sourcing from, and supplying to forcibly displaced communities, and supporting these communities to become more resilient and self-reliant in the long-term.”

Dealflow: Media and Democracy

Nearly a dozen independent news organizations in Nigeria get support from MDIF. Last year’s youth-led uprising against police brutality spurred Nigeria’s biggest anti-government protests in a generation. Media Development Investment Fund launched a three-year program in Nigeria earlier this year to help independent media organizations in the country improve financial stability to maintain their independence. “Political risk is part of our business model,” Harlan Mandel of Media Development Investment Fund told ImpactAlpha. “If there is no political risk, we’re not going to work in a given country.” (See, “How Media Development Investment Fund calculates political risk to back press freedom.”)

  • Nigeria cohort. Among the first cohort of participants is Prime Progress, a solutions-focused online platform that documents how people and groups respond and solve humanitarian, economic and social issues in Nigeria; Edugist, an impact media organization reporting on education news in Africa; and Culture Custodia, a youth-focused platform that focuses on trending stories and events that matter to African millennials. Participants in the program will receive grant funding, technical assistance and other support services from MDIF.
  • Independent media. The New York-based nonprofit media investment fund supports independent news outlets and information businesses in places where freedom is under threat. MDIF’s funds have deployed over $100 million in debt and equity funding since 1996 for media companies in 40 countries, such as Malawi, Serbia, India and most recently Ukraine. The Nigerian Guild of Editors in May called for the protection of independent media from elected leaders in Nigeria.
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Maris raises $12 million from Proparco for climate resilience in Africa. The Mauritius-based private equity firm invests in renewable energy, agriculture and forestry, as well as gold mining, real estate and services. French development finance institution Proparco invested $12 million to help Maris build up its climate-related portfolio. The firm has invested in a sustainable teak plantation, a commercial and industrial solar company, an electric commercial vehicle company, and several agri-businesses.

  • Responsible business. Maris describes itself as an environmental, social and governance-focused firm. It launched in 2009 with investments in newly-established South Sudan and a shuttered gold mine in Kenya. The Kenyan mine was recently forced to pause operations over legal and land disputes, including with the local community. The company says its portfolio of 20 small and mid-sized businesses employ more than 500 people, 40% of whom are women.
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Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Energy Capital Partners will acquire U.K.-based waste management company Biffa in a deal valued at £1.3 billion ($1.4 billion).
  • Indian health tech venture Molbio Diagnostics scored $85 million from Temasek and Motilal Oswal Alternates for early detection of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, swine flu and HIV.
  • Brazilian fintech startup Solfácil secured $30 million, led by Fifth Wall Climate, to provide financing for solar installations to homeowners and businesses in Latin America.
  • Peru’s Wolet raised $2 million in debt to expand lending services to the country’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Impact Voices: Low-Carbon Transition

Move over New York: Clean energy action shifts to industrial Pittsburgh. Climate was the talk of the town during New York’s Climate Week, but the real action may have been in Pittsburgh, Pa., 370 miles away. The Steel (or Steelers) City was an apt choice for the U.S. Department of Energy’s first Global Clean Energy Action Forum, given the Biden administration’s push to leverage the clean tech sector to revitalize U.S.-based manufacturing jobs. The summit, held in conjunction with the International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Ministerial, convened some 4,000 attendees from 35 countries. With the Inflation Reduction Act’s game-changing $369 billion for clean energy and climate tech starting to roll out, the Energy Department is working to supercharge the pace of deployment, CleanEdge’s Clint Wilder reports from Pittsburgh. “It can’t be, ‘How do we figure it out in 10 years,’” said Jigar Shah, who heads the D.O.E.’s loan office. “It has to be ‘How do we get it done in 10 years?’”

  • Rust Belt rising. Industrial policy is in. “We’ve been competing with those policies from China Inc. and across Europe,” said U.S. Steel’s Richard Fruehauf. “These are the right policies to rebuild our manufacturing base.” One example: EOS Energy Enterprises, which makes zinc batteries in a former Westinghouse plant outside of Pittsburgh. The company employs more than 250 people and sources 90% of its inputs from suppliers within a five-hour truck ride of Pittsburgh.
  • Industrial decarbonization. The U.S. is among nine countries in the First Movers Coalition that is seeking to create demand for early-stage products like low-carbon cement and steel and “make clean steel and clean cement products as cheap to build as dirty ones,” says U.S. special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry. At the forum, the D.O.E. opened applications for $7 billion to create up to 10 “hydrogen hubs” across the U.S. to advance the technology and drive down costs. The goal: producing 10 million tons of clean hydrogen per year by 2030, and 50 million tons by mid-century.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Don’t miss these ImpactAlpha partner events:

  • GIIN Investor Forum 2022 takes place Oct.12-13 in The Hague with Eli Angen of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Shade Duffy of AXA Investment Managers, and others. ImpactAlpha subscribers can register here to get 10% off.
  • The Regenerative Food Systems Investment Forum is set for Oct. 12-13 in Denver with Asha Agrawal of Patagonia’s Tin Shed Ventures, Elizabeth Candelario of Mad Agriculture, and other guests. Subscribers get 15% off with code IMPACT.
  • SOCAP22 is back in person, Oct. 17-20 in San Francisco with Jennifer Astone of Integrated Capital Investing, Noramay Cadena of Supply Change Capital, and other guests. Save $250 with code s22_ImpactAlpha.

Thank you for your impact!

– Sept. 28, 2022