The Brief | March 8, 2022

The Brief: Today’s Call: Operationalizing ESG, women driving alpha, telehealth in Uganda, digitalization in southeast Asia, migration opportunity in Europe

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact!

Hop on today’s Call: Operationalizing ESG and impact inside the corporation. On today’s Agents of Impact Call, Duke University’s Cathy Clark will walk through a four-step impact management process. Walmart’s Brendan Morrissey and Salesforce’s Sunya Norman will share tips for turning ESG goals into outcomes.

  • Zoom right in (no RSVP required) today, Mar. 8 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London.

Featured: International Women’s Day

Women drive alpha, and other wisdom from gender-smart impact investors. More gender-diverse workforces generate higher profits, find business opportunities that others miss, and show stronger employee engagement and client retention. Gender-balanced investment firms outperform. A pair of guest posts on ImpactAlpha rounds up insights from women impact investors in emerging markets. “We see that when you invest in women, from street vendors to business executives, they invest back into their families and communities,” Madichaba Nhlumayo of Ditiro and Sindi Mabaso-Koyana and Jesmane Boggenpoel of AIH Capital write from South Africa. “We also see how we shoot ourselves in the foot when we ignore large segments of society.” Writes Kristin Jangraw of USAID’s INVEST initiative, “There is so much opportunity still on the table to increase the flow of capital to female entrepreneurs, to help companies reach their full potential, and to reap the financial and social rewards of empowering women in every value chain.”

  • Gender-lens tools and tips. “There are opportunities at every stage of the investment process to mitigate gender biases and identify missed opportunities,” writes Jangraw. Value for Women has developed a gender-lens portfolio strategy how-to guide. Deetken Impact and Pro Mujer, together with USAID INVEST, have created a toolbox for improving gender and inclusion in Latin America’s small and mid-sized businesses. Being gender-smart means more than investing in companies led-by or serving only women, says Jangraw. “Investors can instead find performance alpha by helping portfolio companies of all stripes find and close gender gaps.” Keep reading,How six impact investors are giving their portfolios a ‘gender-smart’ boost.”
  • Untapped potential in South Africa. “Being excluded has made us hungry for inclusion,” write Nhlumayo, Mabaso-Koyana and Boggenpoel, all first-time Black women fund managers. “And our investment models leverage this both as a strength and a goal.” AIH Capital prioritizes investments that improve women’s participation in financial services, industry and technology. Ditiro invests in overlooked businesses with good track records and sustainable earnings. Six other women-led funds participated in the Women Empowerment Mentoring and Incubation program for fund managers in Southern Africa. “To fully harness Africa’s growth potential,” the authors write, “we need an investment industry that represents and understands the diverse population that makes up the continent.” Keep reading, Empowering women fund managers to seize overlooked opportunities in Southern Africa.”

Dealflow: Investing in Health

Rocket Health raises $5 million for affordable telehealth in Uganda. More than three-quarters of healthcare professionals in Uganda are in urban areas, leaving the 80% of the population living in rural areas with limited access to health services. Remote consultations and telehealth solutions accelerated during COVID. Kampala-based Rocket Health provides more than 25,000 patients in Uganda online and in-person consultations with licensed doctors, alongside prescription deliveries, sample collection for lab tests, and other health-related services. The goal: to “build a sustainable digital healthcare value chain down to the last mile across Africa,” said Rocket Health’s Davis Musinguzi.

  • Africa expansion. Creadev Africa, an evergreen fund backed by France’s Mulliez family, led the Series A round to help Rocket Health expand in Uganda and Kenya and eventually to West Africa. Ghana’s mPharma, which raised $35 million in January, is targeting both West and East Africa.
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Zaapi scores $4 million to digitalize merchants in Southeast Asia. Small businesses account for at least half of Southeast Asia’s economy. “The pandemic has turned digital adoption into a necessity for the region’s 100 million micro, small and medium-sized enterprises,” said Wilfried Buiron of Singapore-based Zaapi, which builds digital tools for managing such businesses. Zaapi says its mobile app lets small merchants set up online businesses quickly and free of charge.

  • Digitalization. Zaapi says it was able to launch its app in Thailand last year with a $500,000 investment from Flash Ventures. The new seed-stage round was led by GFC, Flourish Ventures and Partech.
  • Check it out.

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Socialsuite, an Australian ESG and social impact disclosure platform, raises $4.3 million in Series A funding (see, “Socialsuite: Monitor your impact or risk doing harm”).
  • Otipy raises $32 million in Series B financing to reduce waste by purchasing fresh produce directly from India’s smallholder farmers.
  • Mi Terro scores $1.5 million in a round led by Astanor Ventures to make compostable plastic packaging using agricultural waste.
  • U.K.-based EV charging startup Bonnet secures $5.5 million to expand internationally.

Signals: Refugee Lens

Ukraine crisis presents an opportunity for adaptive migration solutions. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. More than 1.7 million people – so far – have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries, according to the United Nations. More than seven million could be forced to flee; millions more are displaced within the country. The European Union last week moved to activate the E.U’s Temporary Protection Directive for the first time. The directive, a legacy of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, offers refugees collective protection status for at least a year and access to housing, education, health, social welfare, residency permits and other benefits. The decision is “unprecedented,” says Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “It will provide protection to millions on the move.”

  • U.S. response. The U.S. has granted temporary protected status to the estimated 34,000 Ukrainians who arrived in the U.S. before March 1. The Biden administration has yet to rebuild the U.S. refugee program, which was curtailed in the Trump years. A presidential directive could boost the cap on the number of refugee spots allocated to Europeans and others fleeing Ukraine.
  • Equitable migration. The U.N. has condemned racism at the Ukrainian border, where students and migrants from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East have been targeted, segregated and forced to wait days at the border while Ukrainian nationals are allowed to pass. Discriminatory treatment of people of African descent and others requires urgent action from the E.U. and its member states, says Tendayi Achiume, a U.N. special rapporteur. “There is no excuse to treat human beings like this,” says Giselle Frederick of London-based Sonaaar, which is fundraising and coordinating support for ethnic-minority refugees. The E.U’s offer of automatic protection may not cover all non-Ukrainian refugees.
  • Global citizens. Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen is feeding tens of thousands of refugees at eight border crossings and supporting local restaurants in eight Ukrainian cities including in Odessa, Lviv and Kyiv. Airbnb is offering free (temporary) housing to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. “This is good, but not a long-term solution,” says John Kluge of the Refugee Investment Network. The only U.S. resettlement city that is expanding housing with a dedicated affordable housing partner is Louisville, Ky. “This needs to change if collectively, we want to permanently resettle larger numbers of displaced families, including both Afghan and Ukrainian refugees,” Kluge says. Global Citizen has a list of more than two dozen ways you can help Ukraine.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Adam Connaker, ex- of the Rockefeller Foundation, joins Surdna Foundation as director of impact investing… Scott Nathan, formerly of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, becomes the U.S. International Development Finance Corp.’s new CEO… Alex Kravitz, ex- of SOCAP, joins the Island Institute’s Community Impact Fund as a senior officer… Whole Planet Foundation is looking for a program manager for the Asia / Pacific region… Steward seeks a remote senior loan underwriter in Oregon… The Bridgespan Group seeks a remote impact investing manager in the U.S. 

Google is hiring a program associate for social impact in San Francisco… ReGen Network has openings for engineers… The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship seeks a senior project manager for innovative finance in Cape Town… Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund will host “Investing in Climate Solutions,” featuring Azolla Ventures’ Amy Duffuor, Buoyant Ventures’ Amy Francetic, and Sophie Purdom of Climate Tech VC and Kula Bio on Monday, Mar. 14…. Kiva and USAID are hosting a virtual “Gender Equity and Financial Inclusion Forum,” Mar. 15-17.

Thank you for your impact.

– Mar. 8, 2022