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Adaptive Management Leads to Agile Responses in Bangladesh

Posted By Mark Sevier, ACDI/VOCA, Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Based in Dhaka, a densely populated city of nearly 22 million, Chaldal is the largest online platform for grocery delivery in Bangladesh, capturing roughly 80 percent of the country’s market shares of online grocery and retail sales. When the COVID-19 crisis hit Dhaka in March, more households relied on grocery delivery services to social distance and prevent the spread of the virus. Chaldal’s average deliveries rose from 3,000 to 15,000 per day.  

This growth opportunity also presented a dilemma. While the company already sourced rice and grain products from wholesale markets, the fivefold increase in demand for their products from urban customers meant they needed to significantly grow their supply without sacrificing quality. They did this by sourcing aromatic rice, pulses, and oilseeds from aggregators who procure from farmers supported by Feed the Future. New warehouses, an expanded workforce, and additional motorcycles for deliveries boosted their operational capacity, but this alone wasn’t enough. 

Technical support from the Feed the Future Bangladesh Rice and Diversified Crops (RDC) Activity aided Chaldal in developing a more agile supply chain and new products. Recognizing the market opportunity, Chaldal developed a “know your rice” campaign to highlight the benefits of locally produced premium rice varieties. The campaign allowed Chaldal to market its products sourced from rural Feed the Future areas to urban areas. It also allowed Chaldal to expand its supply chain portfolio, ensuring food availability for the urban poor, with a focus on marketing nutritional products, such as zinc rice, to women and children. Existing customer databases allowed the company to target these market segments with promotional campaigns through bundling fast-moving consumer goods and promotional packets of nutritional products.

The RDC Activity, which is funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, helped the company fast-track their hiring process using virtual trainings for new delivery employees. The RDC Activity also helped Chaldal develop a network of procurement agents and millers, set up stricter hygiene protocols, supply employees with face masks and soap, and impose regular cleanings of its vegetable sourcing, processing, and packaging facility. As a result, Chaldal is on track to meet delivery demands. The company plans to use this supply chain infrastructure to create trade efficiencies and expand its sale of fresh vegetables and perishables. Although Chaldal had the resources to make this transition on its own, the RDC Activity’s support redirected the management of these resources and made them a priority for the business to adapt and respond to COVID-19.

The successful shift in business operations shined a light on how global development entities should engage with the private sector. To increase the agility of enterprises to adapt to market shocks, development organizations must understand  the context of the problem, co-create a solution with the company, adapt to rapid changes, and use data to inform responses for both the donor and the enterprise.   

Adjusting how we think about partnerships requires major behavioral shifts and acceptance of that fact that there will be failures. In 2019, USAID launched a policy that began the process of institutionalizing private sector engagement as a core part of its operating model. ACDI/VOCA’s own private sector engagement approach explores how to incentivize the right enterprises in the right ways to weather a storm — not only for their own gain, but also to strengthen the broader market systems. 

Understanding the Problem

Understanding how and why businesses behave the way they do is the first step toward engaging the right partners to strengthen local economies and contribute to development objectives. It is an approach that begins with analyzing the market to discover the root causes of poorly performing sectors. Better understanding can come through identifying business and decision-making norms, highlighting gaps in financing, defining problems or opportunities rooted in gender and social inequalities, or gauging openness to inclusive business methods. 

The RDC Activity drew upon its previous Chaldal partnership, which focused on marketing, as well as its COVID-19 analysis to identify ways in which the company was already resilient and to determine the new challenges it faced. This created an opportunity to develop a mutually beneficial partnership focusing on expanding opportunities targeting the urban poor with nutritional products. Through this process, the RDC Activity also helped Chaldal identify promotional campaigns at schools where mothers pick up their children. This proved to be a very effective channel for push marketing.

Co-Creating the Solution with the Private Sector

When a development organization approaches a company with a predetermined plan for how to partner, the company can only accept or reject it. By shifting the conversation to say “Here is what we are seeing on the ground. What are you seeing?” we open up the terms of engagement and increase the likelihood of partnership. Through this process, there is an opportunity to collaborate and co-create with the private sector. 

The RDC Activity started working with Chaldal in 2019 to promote fine and aromatic rice varieties through innovative marketing. This involved facilitating meetings to introduce Chaldal to millers and procurers of rice. Based on this previous experience, it was clear to Chaldal that the opportunity to source its products from the Feed the Future zone would add value to their market in Dhaka. The RDC Activity brainstormed with Chaldal’s CEO on how to respond to the increasing demand, while also meeting the mandatory safety protocols of warehouse and delivery systems. Based on this discussion, Chaldal co-created the proposal with technical assistance from the RDC Activity. 
Responding to Rapid Changes through Adaptive Management 

Investing time, energy, and trust-building resources into partnerships with the private sector allows for more flexibility when changing circumstances, such as COVID-19, disrupt supply chains and business models. 

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, ACDI/VOCA programs around the world have been helping enterprises pivot through adaptive management. As was the case in Bangladesh, sometimes that means lowering the barriers and simplifying the process for engaging with enterprises to become more agile.

In an article published by USAID, Anar Khalil, the RDC Activity’s agreement officer’s representative at USAID’s Bangladesh Mission said, “We looked at past programs and realized that the traditional design process — from the moment we put together a concept idea to procurement — takes 18 months to two years. So, by the time the project is awarded, these ideas are old.”

For the RDC Activity, adaptive management meant quickly moving forward with applications that had the most potential to create both immediate and long-term solutions resulting in more resilient systems that are better equipped to cope with shocks. This flexible approach allowed Chaldal to address self-recognized pain points and make a quick pivot to its business model. It also allowed the company to expand its capacity to increase sourcing and offer farmers market opportunities in the middle of unprecedented shocks in demand for their products. The RDC Activity’s streamlined grants process identified key evaluation criteria and removed barriers to participation. Recognizing the urgency of addressing COVID-19 constraints, USAID waived its one-to-one fund matching requirement for sub-grants related to COVID-19 responses. This allowed the RDC Activity to pivot its approach and turn applications around much faster. The RDC Activity co-created their final agreement with Chaldal to ensure any proposed solutions were realistic and could address the challenges the company faced. 
Measuring and Learning from Results

Data informs both companies and programmatic decision making. Based on their learning from annual performance surveys and rapid situational analysis, the RDC Activity was able to better understand which business models and interventions could lead to systemic changes in the agriculture market system. This informed how the RDC Activity worked with Chaldal, especially supporting the company’s ability to decide where to expand and to focus on the investments needed to meet demand. Mutually beneficial data increased the capacity of Chaldal to identify, prioritize, and allocate resources more broadly into their supply chain operations.

Agile Responses Lead to Systemic Change 

ACDI/VOCA’s portfolio approach to private sector engagement recognizes the needs to shift thinking beyond firm-level investments and, instead, to look at the broader group of firms supported and their contribution to a stronger system. The RDC Activity’s systems approach is predicated on collaboration within the market system through facilitating connections between enterprises and creating incentives for multiple firms addressing a common challenge. Its partnerships are also linked to the activity’s systemic change objectives. 

This has resulted in a stronger supply chain and distribution model that is improving the competitiveness and resilience of the agricultural market system. For example, the RDC Activity facilitated connections between agriculture mechanization providers and rice companies to develop branded “franchise service operators” who provide services to thousands of farmers in their network. That led to continuous maintenance support, established farmer databases, and scheduling and training programs for equipment operators with new companies entering the market. 

Chaldal’s aggregators target these farmers as part of their increased sourcing from the Feed the Future zone. The company intends to increase rice procurement from rice mills that are dependent on a pool of farmers, including female farmers, who produce single variety rice. This will happen once they establish quality and pricing standards and develop partnerships with regional seed input providers. 

The RDC Activity is making the inclusive business case for Chaldal to invest in women both as producers and consumers. To date, the RDC Activity has invested in 37 enterprises with 54 unique interventions, resulting in $3,182,462 in sales and procurement to 344,654 farmers who have accessed improved services. 

From the private sector perspective, having the ability to adapt and innovate during challenging times leads to more inclusive, sustainable, and agile responses. 

“When the COVID-19 crisis hit, we were flooded with orders,” Chaldal CEO Waseem Alim said in an interview. “USAID and RDC came in with COVID-19 emergency support, which was used to help adapt and expand our business operations while ensuring continued safety of our employees.” 

Adaptive approaches lead to increased sales and a strengthened ability of firms and the broader system to not only increase food security but also respond to future crises. The result is more sustainable and scalable opportunities benefitting farmers. 

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Evidence and Tools for the Effective Mentoring of MSMEs : Sharing our experience

Posted By Joanna Gray, Youth Business International, Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Youth Business International (YBI) is committed to sharing our learning to help improve the practice of ways to help and empower young entrepreneurs

As Director of Membership Services and Engagement at YBI, I'm sharing our experience on over a decade of running mentoring programmes. This builds on the recent report commissioned by Argidius Foundation, our lead funding partner for YBI’s High Flyers Youth Entrepreneurship Programme.

For more than a decade Youth Business International (YBI) and its members have been using mentoring as a tool for driving effective support for young entrepreneurs. Over that time, we have supported over 40 YBI members to design and launch their own mentoring programmes.

Many of these are now hugely successful in providing ongoing support and development of young entrepreneurs and their businesses. We have continually learnt, developed and evolved our offer so that mentoring programmes across the network are able to benefit from this journey to evolve good practice on running an effective mentoring programme. We are thrilled to see Argidius Foundation invest and commission this work to help broaden the knowledge base of good practice and to see such a great summary of the essentials of designing and running an effective mentoring programme.

We recognise and validate much of what is shared here, especially –

1. The emphasis and focus on the need to effectively build, operate, and support a mentoring programme. Through our own work and the extensive experience of our team of experts and members, we know that it all starts with great design work. Far too often we’ve seen programmes that have only been focused on putting two people together and telling them to mentor. We design with our values in mind.

Quality: we work with a tried and tested consistent approach based on our ten-step mentoring model.

Collaboration: we work with local need, expertise and tailor our approach accordingly.

Tenacity: we stay with the member for 12 months engaging at the start and, continuing with remote calls and finally a second visit prior to the member building a sustainable plan for the future.

2. Exploring the difference between mentoring, coaching, and advising. In our experience, everyone has a different definition of these practices, so it is important to get clear on this and work with current understandings. However, we also know that the crossover is huge and it’s about making sure your participants and stakeholders are clear about what is expected of them all.

3. Different modalities. It is great to see the different routes to mentoring laid out in the report. We have certainly seen many of these variations take place around our network. But we agree – one to one really offers the most value and sometimes, if you call everything mentoring, you can confuse the issue and devalue a one to one mentoring programme.

4. The six-step design process – reflects much of our own 10 step process. A few reflections and call outs here are:

  • Recruitment – your mentors are your best advocates and recruiters – ensure you recognise and invest in them
  • Matching – is definitely an art, not a science, and if on those odd occasions you get it wrong, it is ok to start again
  • Training – ensure you make it memorable and inspiring; focus on attitude, skills and knowledge; and give people the opportunity to practice the skills they can use as a mentor.

What we know from our own research and from our members around the world is that there are other key areas of importance when designing and running a mentoring programme:

  • Training of mentees, as well as mentors – both within the YBI network and through our team’s broader expertise in the world of mentoring, we know that only preparing and training mentors is not enough. Mentees must also be given the space to learn what is expected, how the relationship will work and how to get the most out of the relationship. Clearly managed expectations from the start delivers huge value later.
  • The importance of an excellent Mentoring Programme Manager – we simply cannot over-emphasise the value of having a brilliant Mentoring Programme Manager, who is also supported from the top i.e. by the CEO, Director or Board. Every programme that we have ever seen fail generally does so from the loss of the Programme Manager. The Programme Manager is the life blood of any programme and these are the reasons why:
  1. Advocates and ambassadors for mentoring – they are familiar with the business case for mentoring and are expert at explaining this to a variety of stakeholders
  2. Marketers for the programme – they drive the recruitment of participants onto the programme and use their network to connect with as broad and diverse a group of people as possible
  3. Essential for matching – the matching of mentoring pairs is arguably one of the most challenging elements of the programme set up and they go the extra mile to ensure the best possible fit
  4. Mentor skills – for a mentoring programme to be truly sustainable it cannot rely on external support for all things. Great Programme Managers ensure they up-skill themselves as mentors and take up opportunities to practice
  5. Finger on the pulse – the Mentoring Programme Managers are connected to their participants - knowing that they need to have a sense of what’s working and what isn’t, who needs help, what are the early success stories that are emerging?
  6. A genuine belief in the power and impact of mentoring – they generally have a passion for mentoring and for helping people to get the most from relationships.
  • The recognition, recognition and further recognition of mentors – the YBI network approach to mentoring requires all mentors to be volunteers. Over the years as we’ve explained this approach to members around the globe, the first reaction is disbelief that anyone with the experience required would be willing to volunteer their time to act as a mentor. Yet they do. It has been a pleasure to watch our members faces turn from disbelief to joy as their mentor numbers grow and their programmes flourish. However, to do this requires effort and the constant engagement and support of mentors. Our mantra is always “recognition, recognition, recognition”. How will you show your mentors that you value them?
  • The value of programme evaluation – this can be a challenge; how do you measure the impact of a relationship? As our friend and colleague Professor Bob Garvey often says “Does friendship work? How do you know it does?” As we all know, it just does. But we also know that tracking and sharing impact allows us all to demonstrate the critical value of mentoring. So, ensuring you have a robust way to measure impact, both quantitively and qualitatively is essential.

For example, YBI conducted a 2-year longitudinal study in 2017 which found that -

“nearly three-quarters (74%) of young entrepreneurs were more confident in running their business and 72% felt they had stronger decision-making skills through the support of their mentors. Personal levels of confidence also grew during the programme, by the end 71% of entrepreneurs felt they had learned significantly more about their personal strengths and development areas.”

YBI’s member in Spain, Youth Business Spain, also conducted research in partnership with PwC . A key finding was:

“The businesses that have taken part in the mentoring programme have more than doubled the probability of continuing in business compared with the average for the Spanish economy in general, with a business survival rate of 87% in the fifth year against a national average of 41%.”

The Covid 19 pandemic has thrown another important light on mentoring. We have certainly seen that mentoring has never been more essential to young people our members are supporting. At a time when critical decisions need to be made alongside moments of huge emotional distress, having a mentor who understands how to support you is incredibly valuable. Organisations also need to consider, how to run both your programme and manage your mentoring relationship in a virtual way. Considering this, YBI launched its SOS Mentoring which is a way to enhance established volunteer business mentoring programmes with new skills for mentors to ensure the quality and reach of support to entrepreneurs facing the Covid-19 crisis. This is done via developing and delivering new advanced mentoring tools and creating learning communities of mentors.

We know mentoring works. It is one of the most passionate topics of discussion in our global community. We are thrilled to see further research being conducted which continues to highlight and promote the value of mentoring and the importance of doing it well. Congratulations to all involved: we look forward to seeing more brilliant mentoring programmes being set up through the learning shared here.

Tags:  mentoring  research  youth entrepreneurship 

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Anzisha Prize Hall of Fame highlights ten successful Africans who embraced entrepreneurship at an early age

Posted By Anzisha Prize, Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Anzisha Prize Hall of Fame highlights ten successful Africans who embraced entrepreneurship at an early age

Meet the African entrepreneurs whose transitions into entrepreneurship are inspirational pathways for future entrepreneurs.


Johannesburg, South Africa – The Anzisha Prize, a partnership with African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation, is celebrating ten African entrepreneurs whose transitions into entrepreneurship started before the age of 25. The ten inspirational business leaders have been inducted into the Anzisha Prize Hall of Fame for 2020.

The Hall of Fame features a diverse group of five female and five male entrepreneurs whose transitions from high school or university into entrepreneurship demonstrates the importance of starting early to shape entrepreneurial careers. The Hall of Fame honorees are entrepreneurs from various industries and represent six African countries, which includes South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Cameroon and Egypt. Their stories of success and triumphs are a source of inspiration and point of reference for young Africans.

Over the last decade, The Anzisha Prize has celebrated young entrepreneurs and believes that successful transitions from school to entrepreneurship are under-invested. The names on this list exemplify the Anzisha Prize’s longstanding belief that more young people should choose entrepreneurship to help lessen youth unemployment on the continent. While not everyone can be an entrepreneur, but those who are interested should be encouraged and supported in their pursuit.

As the youth unemployment rate increases and young people battle to find gainful employment, we want to ignite conversations about the support needed for young people to pursue entrepreneurship as a career choice. Educators, parents, investors and policymakers have the power to influence the decisions of young people to view entrepreneurship as an option,” says Melissa Mbazo – Ekpenyong, Deputy Director at Anzisha Prize.

While some of the honorees faced unemployment issues, many of them became entrepreneurs after witnessing a parent run a business on a small scale. At the age of 8, Kenyan entrepreneur Njeri Rionge was ushered into the world of entrepreneurship by selling fruits and vegetables at a busy market in Nairobi. South African entrepreneur Ntuthuko Shezi started out helping his mum sell baked goods. Now at the age of 38, he is currently pursuing his fourteenth business. Both their stories and those of the other Hall of Fame inductees highlight the realities of deviating from traditional career pathways into entrepreneurship.

“The Hall of Fame has been a two-pronged approach. Firstly, we wanted to showcase that the pursuit of entrepreneurship is not something that needs to be done when all else has failed. You can and should start now. Secondly, we want to create African points of reference for young people to feel encouraged that this path of entrepreneurship is a viable choice,” says Didi Onwu, Communications and Stakeholder Relations Associate, who developed the list. While arguments for young people to follow traditional career pathways have created a singular understanding of success, entrepreneurship provides a counter perspective that demonstrates success can be achieved at an early age.

For more content on how these entrepreneurs started early, visit for the complete list, feature stories and exclusive videos. Make sure to join the conversation on social media, using: #AnzishaHOF and follow @anzishaprize.

We want your input in inducting the next Hall of Famers! We’re looking for a diverse set of entrepreneurs from various countries whose journeys of starting early should be celebrated. If you know of an entrepreneur in your country who could be the next hall of famer, tell us about them here!


2020 Hall of Fame:

Jessy Bityeki

Jessy Bityeki followed the traditional path of going to University and finding a job in a corporate company. But at the age of 24, she decided that starting her business was more interesting.

Mutoba Ngoma

At the age of 21, after graduating from University, Mutoba Ngoma took a leap of faith by becoming an entrepreneur. Inspired by a documentary, he was able to delve into the energy sector and build Tapera industries.

Temitope Ogunsemo

From support to monetary investment, Temitope’s entrepreneurial ideas were championed by family first, making his transition from University into entrepreneurship a familial effort.

Njeri Rionge

Njeri Rionge’s primary school days were spent selling vegetables in one of Nairobi’s busiest markets. What entrepreneurial skills did she master to make her the serial entrepreneur that she is today?

Wandile Zondo

After graduating from high school, Wandile Zondo ventured into the world of entrepreneurship. With a vision to revolutionalise township streetwear, he built Thesis Lifestyle.

Rapelang Rabana

In her final year of University, Rapelang Rabana had a taste of the entrepreneurial world by starting a business with friends. Interestingly, this wasn't her first time starting a business, as she had already been questioning the conventional pathway of getting a job.

Musa Kalenga

While most students were focused on getting good grades in University, Musa and his friends were trying to develop ideas that would make them self-proclaimed bosses. How did a boisterous University student catalyse on his love for business at the age of 20?

Baratang Miya

South African entrepreneur Baratang Miya began experimenting with entrepreneurship at the age of 14. Many years later, she’s inspiring young women and girls to see tech in a different light.

Ntuthuko Shezi

As a primary school student, Nthuthuko Shezi was already an entrepreneur and by the age of 21 had launched his first business. Now on business number 14 and counting, this serial entrepreneur shares how starting early can lead to multiple successes.


Dina el Mofty

After graduating from University at the age of 24, Egyptian entrepreneur Dina el Mofty was on a mission to do something impactful. For this reason, she started her own business, Injaz Egypt.

Read all their profiles at


Media Contact

Didi Onwu

African Leadership Academy

+27 11 699 3000 or


About the Anzisha Prize

The Anzisha Prize seeks to fundamentally and significantly increase the number of job-generative entrepreneurs in Africa. We test, implement, and then share models for identifying, developing, and connecting high potential, very young entrepreneurs (15-22 years old) – and their parents and teachers. These efforts will ensure our ecosystem’s collective success in creating a pipeline of entrepreneurs with the capabilities for scale. The Anzisha Prize is a partnership between African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation.

About African Leadership Academy

African Leadership Academy (ALA) seeks to transform Africa by developing a powerful network of entrepreneurial leaders who will work together to achieve extraordinary social impact. Each year, ALA brings together the most promising young leaders from all 54 African nations for a pre-university program in South Africa with a focus on leadership, entrepreneurship and African studies. ALA continues to cultivate these leaders throughout their lives, in university and beyond, by providing on-going leadership and entrepreneurial training and connecting them to high-impact networks of people and capital that can catalyse large-scale change. For more information, visit

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work.  It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management. For more information on the Foundation, please visit:

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Tags:  #AnzishaPrize #Entrepreneurship #Africa 

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How are small businesses in Colombia coping with the pandemic?

Posted By Juan Navarrete, Fundacion Capital, Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Written by Mauricio Romero, Evaluation and Research Coordinator of Fundación Capital


In April 2020,  Fundación Capital  conducted an opinion poll¹ in Colombia to understand how small businesses² are being affected by the crisis generated by COVID-19.

This survey took place as part of the DigitAll project, a Fundación Capital initiative sponsored by Mastercard’s Center for Inclusive Growth. DigitAll’s goal is to strengthen 50,000 small businesses with growth potential (strivers) in Colombia, Mexico and Peru by boosting entrepreneurs’ capacities to better manage their businesses and by promoting their digital transformation. Although this initiative was conceived in 2019, the current pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital transformation in the strengthening and, in many cases, the very survival of small businesses in Latin America. A survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Financial Inclusion (CAFI) in March 2020 showed that for micro and small enterprises, there is a strong correlation between digitization and financial resilience.

Supporting small businesses in the current situation is vital given that this sector represents one of the main economic engines in the region and is also one of the largest generators of employment. Despite their economic importance, these types of shops have had to face different difficulties related to the competition and expansion of large supermarket chains, and the recent impact on sales caused by quarantine regulations adopted by different governments in the region.

How have businesses been affected by the pandemic?

The main impact on businesses has been in the form of staff layoffs and decreased sales. 45% of the businesses surveyed were forced to lay off some of their employees as a result of the quarantine, and 66% of the businesses reported a 50% (or higher) drop in sales.

What vision do small business owners have for the future?

Despite the current situation and the context of growing uncertainty, the majority of businesses surveyed (63%) said they have the will to continue with their current business and even 28% believe they have the potential to grow.

Have all businesses been affected equally?

It is very important to differentiate by type of business because not everyone is facing the crisis in the same way. Businesses such as stationery stores, hardware stores or hairdressers face greater difficulties due to the closure of the points of sale. In contrast, businesses considered essential (drugstores, grocery stores and mini-markets) have remained in operation, and some of them have even experienced increases in sales.

How do small business owners perceive the digital transformation process?

Most merchants have taken advantage of adopting digital transformation processes. The primary technological solution used by retailers has been selling and shipping through WhatsApp. 69% of them reported offering delivery services to their customers through WhatsApp during the quarantine. Apart from that, no other e-commerce tools were identified. Cash continues to prevail over electronic means of payment, but a change in this trend is very likely due to biosecurity reasons at the points of sale.

What are small business owners’ main needs during the pandemic?

Due to the current situation, new needs related to information accessibility have emerged. Through the survey, we identified that in order to sustain their businesses, small business owners require information related to three fundamental axes: i) biosecurity measures within the business, ii) financial relief programs, and iii) fiscal/tax relief. The main means of communication that small business owners have to access information related to programs or initiatives to help small businesses are television news programs. However, because of business owners’ fixed schedules and the TV programs’ diverse content, these are not necessarily the most suitable channels to access the information that businesses need.

The responses from this survey will be used in order to redesign and adapt the DigitAll project to the new context. For example, based on the information gathered, the virtual assistant “ConHector” developed by Fundación Capital on the WhatsApp platform has been adapted to provide small business owners with an emergency information package with content on biosecurity measures, and tax and financial relief. The analysis will be further enhanced by the results obtained from the surveys in Mexico and Peru.

An important conclusion of the study is that while there is a consensus on the importance of technology in increasing productivity among small businesses, many still find it difficult to navigate the opportunities that digitization brings. The DigitAll project seeks precisely to guide them along the path toward digital transformation.


The purpose of this survey is to provide a quick statistical measurement to understand the perception of small business owners in the face of the pandemic. This survey is not intended to be nationally representative.

2 The survey was conducted with 200 small businesses located in the city of Bogotá through a digital platform where they directly respond to the survey questions through their own cell phones. The people who responded to the survey participate voluntarily in a community of merchants with small businesses (2–9 employees) dedicated to retail sales: grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, miscellaneous, hardware stores, restaurants and bakeries.

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GroFin launches COVID-19 SME Support Fund in Northern Iraq

Posted By Shailen Neewoor, GroFin, Thursday, July 2, 2020

GroFin, with the support of USAID through a gift from the American people, is extending $1.5 million in financing to help small businesses in northern Iraq overcome the crippling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashraf Esmael, GroFin Chief Investment Officer: Middle East, says the pandemic has placed economies under immense pressure and has hit SMEs especially hard.

“The sudden halt in trading caused by strict lockdown measures has left many small businesses in Iraq’s Nineveh governorate struggling to cover their expenses. We are providing them with the working capital they need to survive and to preserve jobs and livelihoods.”

The Fund offers loans of between $10,000 and $100,000 to existing businesses. The loan tenor is between 12 and 48 months, where the first 12 months is interest-free and a concessionary interest rate of 5% is levied for the remaining term.

Esmael says GroFin has moved quickly to adapt its existing programme in Northern Iraq to respond to the urgent financing need created by the COVID-19 crisis. In 2019, GroFin launched Northern Iraq Investments (NII) to help rebuild the local SME sector after the severe damage inflicted on the region’s infrastructure and economy when it was invaded by ISIS.

“Our work in Northern Iraq has shown us that access to financing is a major obstacle for local entrepreneurs who are trying to rebuild their businesses in a very difficult environment. We knew that we had to adapt our approach in the wake of COVID-19 for NII to fulfill its goal to help grow sustainable small businesses that create jobs,” Esmael explains.

USAID has committed a total of $7.5 million to NII to support business activities and SMEs in Northern Iraq as part of its Middle East and North Africa Investment Initiative. This amount includes the $1.5 million set aside for the COVID-19 SME Support Fund.

“USAID is happy to support Northern Iraq businesses recover from the economic shock caused by this pandemic,” says USAID Mission Director Dana Mansuri.

“This flexible small business loan program is another example of the longstanding U.S. commitment to the people of Iraq. Small businesses are an important driver of growth and recovery, and thus, our ongoing support to private enterprise and entrepreneurship in Iraq is important in helping Iraqis grow, prosper, and build their futures,” Mansuri concludes. GroFin has been operating in Iraq since 2013 and its funds have already invested $7.5 million in SMEs in the country, helping these businesses to sustain 658 jobs. Its staff in Iraq have also provided technical assistance to over 100 Iraqi entrepreneurs, assisting them in setting up and formalising their businesses to contribute to economic growth and stability. GroFin Iraq currently has offices in both Basra and Erbil, with plans to open a third in Baghdad.

About GroFin

GroFin is a specialist, impact-driven SME financier. We help entrepreneurs succeed by providing them expert advice, continuous guidance, and financing to grow their businesses. We believe that growing small businesses to create sustainable jobs is the most powerful driver of social and economic development that truly improves people’s lives.

Since its inception in 2004, GroFin has invested in over 700 SMEs and sustained nearly 90 000 jobs. Headquartered in Mauritius, we offer financing and support to SMEs in 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East. GroFin is supported by 34 international finance institutions, development organisations, and private funders who have committed nearly $535 million in capital & grants to our funds.

Tags:  Access to Finance  finance  impact investing  impact investment  Investors  missing middle  Scale  SGBs  smes  social impact  USAID 

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Acceso Introduces Pivotal Survey on Food Security in Haiti

Posted By Lauren Olsen, Acceso, Monday, June 29, 2020
Updated: Monday, June 29, 2020

Acceso is proud to introduce, a pivotal survey on food security in Haiti. This was developed by Acceso in collaboration with Smallholder Farmers Alliance and with the support of various organizations—including Heifer International, ACTED, Food For the Poor, Clinton Foundation & more—and under the leadership of Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture. We are setting a new standard for data collection to boost Haiti’s farming sector by connecting smallholder food production with the potential for greater local procurement for food distribution. If your organization is involved in food distribution, seed banks, or growing food with smallholder farmers, please complete this survey by July 31. Thank you for your participation!

The goals of the Haiti Food Survey are as follows:

1) to get precise data regarding current smallholder food production;
2) to learn exactly what it would take to significantly increase smallholder food production, and to quantify that potential increase on a crop-by-crop basis;
3) to obtain details about the operation of community seed banks connected to food production, and how they might be expanded;
4) to get detailed information about existing food distribution programs, including how much is currently purchased locally; and
5) to learn exactly what it would take to increase local procurement for food distribution programs, and to quantify that potential increase on a crop-by-crop basis.

Tags:  food security  Haiti  smallholder farmers  Social business  survey 

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Acumen Exits Kopagas following Circle Gas Acquisition

Posted By Kevin Waichanguru, Acumen, Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020

By the Acumen Energy Portfolio Team


It’s hard to believe that despite all the technological innovation of the twenty-first century, 2.6 billion people around the world still have to use open fires to cook their meals.

This is not just a problem of the inconvenience of outdated technology, but of health: more than 4 million people—the majority of whom are women and girls—die each year from exposure to the air pollution produced by cooking with open fires in their homes. That’s more than the number of deaths each year from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined.

And these deaths are preventable. Off-grid clean cooking solutions can significantly reduce the carbon dioxide emissions contributing to these deaths. Yet they are grossly underfunded. To reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030, investors need to infuse $4.39 billion into clean cooking companies over the next 10 years. Due to challenges from product affordability to customer behavior change, these early-stage cookstove companies are often too high-risk for the typical traditional investor: only $21.2 million was invested in clean cookstove companies in 2017 compared to $284 million in off-grid lighting companies.

Clean cooking companies need early-stage investors to help them grow to the stage where they are ready for traditional capital and serve low-income households at scale. Acumen has been backing cookstove innovations with pioneer patient capital since 2015. In the last five years, we have invested a total of $6.2 million in five clean cooking companies like BURN Manufacturing and BioLite across Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and India, helping to unlock $14.4 million in follow-on capital for these companies.

As we have accompanied these enterprises, we have learned more about the intricacies of the sector and low-income cookstove customers’ needs and preferences. We are excited to see two particularly promising innovations beginning to emerge in response: e-cooking devices (such as pressure cookers and hot plates) powered by off-grid energy systems and Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), a cleaner-burning mixture of propane and butane. While e-cooking is still in the product development phase, LPG is beginning to take off as a clean cooking solution for low-income customers—as signaled by the success of Tanzania-based LPG company KopaGas.

KopaGas was founded in 2014 to bring clean cooking solutions to Tanzania, where, at the time, 96 percent of citizens—or 45 million people—were using dirty fuel like charcoal and wood for cooking. While most Tanzanians wanted cleaner fuel like LPG, the high upfront cost of buying an upgraded, compatible stove and an entire gas cylinder kept the product out of reach. 


With its trademarked pay-as-you-go LPG technology, KopaGas made LPG affordable to low-income Tanzanian households for the first time. With funding from grantors like GSMA, the Department for International Development (DfID) and MIT D-Lab, the company developed a smart meter technology that enables customers to buy as much or as little LPG as fit their needs and budgets with mobile money. 

Acumen recognized KopaGas’s potential for impact and invested early-stage equity in the company in 2018. At the time, KopaGas had just finished piloting its product with100 households—48 percent of whom earned less than $3.10 per day—but needed capital to set up commercial manufacturing and bring that product to market.

Since investing, Acumen has  supported KopaGas through a seat on the company’s Board, providing a technical assistance grant, and informing its product design  with a Lean DataSM customer survey. With our pioneer capital, KopaGas brought its proof-of-concept to market and has now connected 1,300 low-income households to LPG-fueled clean cooking, impacting 6,500 lives.

In January, Circle Gas Limited acquired KopaGas’s technology in a $25-million transaction—the largest-ever pure private equity investment in the clean cooking sector. This is exciting not only because it enabled Acumen to exit our shares, but also because of the potential to extend the reach of KopaGas’s technology to millions of low-income customers across East Africa through Circle Gas subsidiary M-Gas.

As KopaGas Co-Founder and CEO Sebastian Rodriguez said, “The investment in clean cooking solutions required to match the scale of the problem are several orders of magnitude of what we have today. We are grateful to find in the Circle Gas team the vision and expertise required to crystallize the KopaGas vision and improve access to clean cooking for millions.”

“Despite the potential for outsized impact, many impact investors have shied away from cooking solutions. We’re proud to back innovators like KopaGas that are proving the viability of scalable, profitable business models and can fundamentally improve health outcomes and financial savings for the poor.” says Acumen East Africa Director Shiru Mwangi.

As we now turn to recycling the capital from this exit and investing in the next early-stage, high-potential innovation, Acumen is forming a new partnership with the DfID-funded Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) Program to accelerate the transition from biomass-based cooking to modern, low-carbon energy-efficient alternatives. Acumen will support investments in the electric cooking, LPG, Ethanol or Biogas sectors designed to catalyze the growth of this nascent sector. For example, with few off-grid-enabled e-cooking appliances yet on the market, Acumen will provide Technical Assistance grants to energy investees in East and West Africa to develop and pilot distribution of e-cooking appliances for off-grid, low-income households.

In doing so, Acumen and MECS will help off-grid households improve their quality of life not just with light, but also cleaner air.

Acumen is excited to take its lessons from the last five years of investing in the cooking sector into this next frontier of developing e-cooking solutions. We are committed to sharing what we learn along the way to both inform our own investing strategy and to support others in the sector in addressing this pressing health issue impacting millions around the globe.

Tags:  clean cookingsocial enterprise  clean energy  energy  impact investing  social impact 

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How can impact linked debt help your social enterprise raise funds?

Posted By Aparna Dua, Asha Impact, Thursday, June 11, 2020
Updated: Thursday, June 11, 2020

By Aparna Dua and Sanchi Khurana (Asha Impact), with legal inputs from Amrut Joshi and Atulaa Krishnamurthy (GameChanger Law Advisors)

Social enterprises have a dual mission to achieve impact and financial returns and often find it hard to raise patient capital for growth as they don’t offer the hockey stick projections that investors are looking for. Confronted with this challenge, they may be forced to drift away or abandon their social mission all together, to chase after more lucrative customer segments or product pricing. Impact-linked debt instruments such as Social Success Notes provide an elegant solution.

"In situations like the current pandemic, when funding dries up for social enterprises, such innovative blended finance structures become ever more relevant and important."

1. What are Social Success Notes?

Social Success Note is a loan provided to a social enterprise with a proven impact and business model that can service debt. The financing helps the enterprise to scale up and hence achieve growth and amplify its impact. The loan is offered at a discounted rate linked to the achievement of social outcomes.

2. How do they work?

  • An Outcome Funder (philanthropic organisation/ government), Risk Investor (Impact Investor/lender) and Social Enterprise enter into a contract wherein the enterprise receives working capital finance in the form of a loan from a risk investor to scale its operations. The outcome funder promises to incentivise the risk investor and the social enterprise on achievement of stipulated social outcomes.
  • The investor offers a loan (may be concessionary) to a social enterprise
  • The enterprise works closely with the target beneficiary group to provide affordable access to goods or services which were hitherto unavailable to this group
  • An independent evaluator verifies the impact created on the ground
  • Payment flows originate from the Outcome Funder and the Social Enterprise:
  • Outcome Funders → Risk Investor and Social Enterprise (Incentive payment if predetermined social outcomes are met)
  • Social Enterprise → Risk Investor (Principal and its share of the interest payment on the loan)

"This helps the Risk Investor achieve an agreeable risk-adjusted return and helps lessen the interest burden on the social enterprise."

3. What are the incentives for different stakeholders to come together

  • For social enterprises: Provides access to working capital at a discounted interest rate, linked to the achievement of outcomes
  • For Risk Investors: The investment opportunity is made more attractive by the incentive payments offered by the outcome funder. In the case of an impact investor, provides an opportunity to support projects with high impact and agreeable risk-adjusted returns
  • For Outcome Funders: Effective utilisation of philanthropic funds
  • For Beneficiaries: Access to affordable goods and services and a focus on outcomes and quality rather than inputs/ activities.

4. Given the multiple parties involved, what are the different contractual agreements to consider?

a. In case all parties are residents of India

  • Loan agreement: Between the social enterprise and the Risk Investor; the agreement includes size of loan, interest rate, repayment schedule, event of default, force majeure clauses etc (see this report on what happens in pay-for-success instruments in the event of a pandemic).
  • Tripartite agreement: Between the three parties; determines who the beneficiaries are, what the outcomes are and when they’ll be measured, price per outcome and whether the outcome payment is fixed or payable on a sliding scale, termination triggers, consequences of failure to meet outcomes etc.
  • M&E agreement: Between the Outcome Funder and the independent evaluator; this document highlights at what stage the independent evaluator would get involved and the periodicity of evaluation (ongoing or at the end of a time period), the baseline and the target outcomes

b. In case the Risk Investor and/or Outcome Funder are offshore (non-residents), a few additional documents are required

  • Loan agreement subject to the RBI’s External Commercial Borrowing guidelines: Loan Agreement is executed between the social enterprise and the Risk Investor. Prior approval is required from the authorised dealer bank (includes most commercial banks) which manages the filing process (Form ECB that must be filled as part of the compliance process).
  • Additional Reporting requirements under the ECB Guidelines: The fundraising entity to

1. Procure a loan registration number from the authorised dealer

2. Report any change in repayment terms

3. File monthly returns

  • Tripartite agreement and M&E Agreement serves the same purpose as described above in 4(a)

5. What are some of the key terms that need to be negotiated between parties?

  • For social enterprises: Loan repayment schedule, outcomes and timeframe for achieving them, events of default and consequences, reporting obligations
  • For Risk Investors: Payment schedule for social enterprise (Principal) and outcome funder (incentive payment)
  • For Outcome Funders: Outcomes, payment triggers and associated timelines
  • For Monitoring and Evaluation partner: Frequency and mode of evaluation and reporting, payment mechanics and consequences of termination of any document such as tripartite agreement, loan agreement etc.
  • In the wake of COVID-19, the force majeure clause is an important one to factor in to all agreements, to ensure adequate risk sharing by all parties in such an event
  • Dispute resolution clauses must be standard across documents to avoid parallel proceedings

6. What are the time and costs associated with contracting?

Time and costs would be closely associated with the financial, legal and business diligence as well as the contracting process involved.

  • Business Diligence involves a through review of the business model to gauge the financial sustainability of the model and its ability to service debt
  • Legal Diligence involves understanding the corporate governance framework, the company’s compliance with and liabilities under existing laws and contracts, shareholder agreements, other outstanding loan agreements etc.
  • Cost associated with diligence depends upon the depth and duration of the process. With more SSNs in the market we expect that the timelines and costs will reduce as regulations may become more streamlined and documentation would be more templatised.

7. Where can I find more information on Social Success Notes?

  • Asha Impact and Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), with the support of SAP and UNDP SDG Finance Facility, are shortly releasing a playbook on Social Success Notes that will serve as a guide for entrepreneurs, investors and outcome funders interested in exploring this funding structure. It includes inputs from UBS, YSB and MSDF based on two pilots conducted by these organisations in Uganda and India.
  • Here is a recording of the recent webinar on the same topic, organised as part of the ANDE India SGB Finance Learning Lab. The slides presented and a compilation of the questions & answers which have been attached to this post for further reference. 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  funding  impact investing  investor  social enterprise 

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TechnoServe Publishes Guide to Supporting Micro and Small Businesses during COVID-19 Crisis and Recovery

Posted By Juan Carlos Thomas Soto, TechnoServe Inc., Monday, June 8, 2020

This is a critical moment for organizations that support small and growing businesses. The coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing, lockdowns, changing consumer patterns, and cascading economic impacts that accompany it are threatening the survival of businesses across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. According to research from the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative, nearly half of surveyed firms had suspended business operations and more than one-third had laid off staff, with a similar share anticipating doing so in the near future.

But as difficult as the situation appears, there is strong evidence that support focused on building skills and mindsets helps entrepreneurs navigate the crisis. In Mozambique, for example, TechnoServe business counselors working with women micro-entrepreneurs helped  reduce the share of program participants who had closed their businesses or planned to do so from 46% in early April to 13% in early May. 

What kind of support do entrepreneurs need in order to keep their businesses alive during this crisis and lead the economic recovery? Like other organizations, TechnoServe is learning how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. However, we wanted to share our ideas, drawing lessons from the 25 TechnoServe programs working with thousands of entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of surveys conducted by our projects, and our experience supporting entrepreneurs in past crises. 

“COVID-19 and Entrepreneurs in the Developing World: Supporting Business Survival and Recovery” focuses on strategies to help businesses continue operating during the immediate crisis, as well as adapt to a changing situation during the recovery phase. It also provides insights on cross-cutting themes important during both the survival and recovery phases:

  • Ensuring that our responses support women’s economic empowerment

  • Providing effective remote support

  • Supporting the role of small businesses in preventing food crises

The full document can be accessed here.

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What should we take into account when promoting the digital transformation of small businesses in Latin America?

Posted By Juan Navarrete, Fundacion Capital, Thursday, June 4, 2020

Written by Mauricio Romero, Research and Investigation Coordinator, Fundación Capital

Some of these solutions are presented below:


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