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AV Ventures' Investments Catalyze Ghana Poultry Industry

Posted By Heather Bateman, ACDI/VOCA, Tuesday, June 4, 2019

AV Ventures is pleased to announce two new investments in Ghana: G. I. Nyame Aye Awie Ampa Limited (GINAAAL) and Golden Link Savings and Loans Limited. AV Ventures, a subsidiary of ACDI/VOCA, is an impact investor providing mezzanine and revenue-based debt to small and growing businesses (SGBs) in developing countries. AV Ventures promotes markets in which business owners, smallholder farmers, and communities are empowered to succeed in the global economy. 

AV Ventures has partnered with the ongoing USDA-funded Ghana Poultry Project, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, and collaborates closely on pre- and post-investment support, poultry market systems development, and fostering other private and public local partnerships.

New Investments, Expanded Impact

The first of AV Ventures’ new investments is GINAAAL, a commercial poultry farm producing eggs for the Ghanaian market. Urbanization, rising per-capita income, and an increasing population are driving significant increases in the demand for chicken meat and table eggs in Ghana where demand outpaces domestic supply—creating opportunities for local poultry farms to expand and fill this gap. AV Ventures’ investment will allow GINAAAL to increase its capacity by bringing an estimated 7 million more eggs to market annually. The investment is also expected to generate greater economic and social impact through:

-  Increasing employment by an estimated 20 percent
-  Improving incomes of its egg retailer network, over 90 percent of whom are women
-  Providing access to markets for over 900 smallholder soy and maize farmers in Ghana, from whom GINAAAL sources its feed ingredients

Further, AV Ventures’ revenue-based financing helps to pioneer a new approach to SME finance: by sharing risk with the entrepreneur and tying repayments to success of the company’s future sales, while allowing the entrepreneur to retain full ownership.

“AV Ventures sees enormous potential for agriculture sector growth in Ghana, particularly in its growing poultry industry. Given its importance in rural Ghana, there is huge potential to catalyze inclusive growth by investing in this sector,” said Geoffrey Chalmers, Managing Director of AV Ventures LLC. 

Golden Link Savings and Loans, AV Ventures’ second new investment, is licensed by the Bank of Ghana as a specialized deposit-taking institution, offering savings, loans, checking, deposit, mobile banking, and remittance services to its customers – many of whom operate in the informal economy. Golden Link has developed loan products specifically for poultry value chain businesses. AV Ventures’ investment creates an on-lending facility for Golden Link to significantly expand its poultry loan portfolio, thereby improving access to finance to smallholder poultry farmers, informal entrepreneurs, and micro-enterprises in Ghana’s poultry value chain. Providing the financing in local currency allows Golden Link to expand without foreign currency risk.

“[AV Ventures’] support is already acting as a catalyst for our growth to the next level,” stated Dr. Emmanuel Owusu, Managing Director of Golden Link.

More About AV Ventures

As a subsidiary of ACDI/VOCA, AV Ventures leverages ACDI/VOCA’s broad platform of expertise and services, including:

-  A global network of 1,200+ staff implementing market systems development programming in 20+ countries
-  Technical expertise in agriculture, financial services, business growth, gender, youth, and more
-  Strong partnerships with local governments, funders, local communities & customer bases, and other international and local private companies
-  Pre- and post-investment advisory support, drawing from our global networks

AV Ventures and ACDI/VOCA are proud members of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Convergence, the INGOs in Impact Investing Network, and the USAID INVEST Network

For more details about AV Ventures or these recent investments, please contact Geoffrey Chalmers, Managing Director for AV Ventures, at gchalmers@av-ventures.com

Tags:  Africa  Agriculture  entrepreneurship  finance  impact investing  impact investment  innovative finance  NGOs  SGBs; small and growing businesses impact investin  smallholder farmers  smes  West Africa 

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Spread the Word: Stanford Seed is Seeking Applicants in Africa & India

Posted By Kendra Gladych, Stanford University, Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Stanford Seed is looking for high-potential CEOs or founders of companies and market-driven social enterprises based in Africa, India and Sri Lanka who are motivated for growth.

The Seed Transformation Program is an unconventional, high-touch learning experience that partners with entrepreneurs in emerging markets to build thriving enterprises that transform lives.

The application deadline is 15 June 2019.

Learn more about the program and access the application here.

Know someone who might be interested? Help us spread the word! Visit this online toolkit for easy ways to share the program with your network.

Tags:  Africa  Agribusiness  Agriculture  ANDE Africa  Business  digital economy  east africa  education  emerging market  emerging markets  energy  entrepreneurship  Fintech  High-Growth Entrepreneurship  India  India; ANDE members  Kenya  leadership  Liberia  professional development  Rwanda  Scale  scaling  smes  social enterprise  Social entrepreneurship  social impact  South Africa  Tanzania  Training  Uganda  West Africa  Women 

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Beyond Traditional Gender Lens Investing: An Intersectional Approach

Posted By Melissa Benn, The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Thursday, April 4, 2019
Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2019

By Melissa Benn, Senior Program Analyst, and Alexandra Solomon, Senior Research Analyst for Ethics and Human Rights 


Gender Lens Investing: “The deliberate integration of gender analysis into investment analysis and decision-making

Gender lens investing (GLI) is “an investing approach that deliberately incorporates a desire to make a difference in the lives of women and girls, while meeting the risk/return objectives appropriate for an institutional portfolio.” The Criterion Institute and Jackie VanderBrug, Managing Director of Global Wealth Management at Bank of America, developed a comprehensive gender lens investing framework, defining, disaggregating, and evaluating the ways in which various investments can benefit and empower women.

Overall, GLI can include, but is not limited to, investments along the following three pillars: (i) Increasing access to capital for women, (ii) workplace equity for women, (iii) products and services for women.

Source: Investor toolkit with a focus on girls and young women. SPRING Accelerator, October 2018. Page 14.

Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorizations, such as race, class, gender, and sexuality, and how they overlap to create interdependent systems of disadvantage and discrimination

In development contexts, women are often considered to be a singular unified cohort that can be grouped together and served based solely on their gender. However, women are not a monolith. This overly simplistic classification interferes with the development community’s ability to serve the most vulnerable populations of women. Intersectionality broadens the concept of “women” and brings visibility to women with differential identities.

Because different groups have different needs, one must pay explicit attention to, and create, programs and solutions focused on different categorizations of women. Such solutions and programs may include, but are not limited to: race, ethnicity, income level, food security, income security, education level, location, financial literacy, access to information, land ownership and access, number of children and/or dependents in the household, disease burden, and marital status. Accounting for these factors would create a truly intersectional and impactful venture fund that does not overlook or exclude women with varying degrees of vulnerability.

How do we best address intersectionality to ensure the three above-mentioned pillars of GLI are inclusive?

 

Increasing access to capital for women

At the US Chamber of Commerce’s International Women’s Day Forum, Jamie Sears, Executive Director of Americas UBS Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility, spoke about the “myth of meritocracy in the entrepreneur space” and how “discrimination is structural and persistent.” According to the World Bank, 70% of formal women-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries are either excluded by financial institutions or are unable to access financial services that meet their needs, resulting in a $287 billion gender funding gap annually. As investors rethink their impact and more purposefully direct capital flows, they have the opportunity to work with development actors to promote not only economic change and empowerment, but also the ability to address the accompanying shifts in attitudes, policies, and practices required to result in sustainable system change.

 

Workplace equity for women: Promoting gender equity throughout the value chain

Understanding how value chains are embedded in the social context that defines differential roles, opportunities, and barriers to success is essential to maximize efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Gender-blind and need-blind investments risk exacerbating gender inequities, failing to identify opportunities for economic growth, and widening the looming gender funding gap and gender agricultural productivity gap, which stands at an estimated 30% in Malawi. A purposeful focus on gender and other intersectional dynamics sheds light on the otherwise invisible relative disadvantages that all kinds of women face and can inform investment strategies in new or improved value chains.

Similarly, many development actors focus on microfinance as the silver bullet to women’s economic empowerment. However, by focusing on microfinance within spheres already in women’s limited areas of control (ie, market vending, textiles, etc), it is easy to overlook the root causes of inequities and not address larger systems built on patriarchal norms – such as politics, health care, and education – that exploit women and perpetuate their lack of adequate representation.

Further up the value chain, we see a growing body of evidence has linked gender diversity to measures of better performance, including return on invested capital (ROIC), return on equity (ROE), and ROE volatility. While this evidence highlights ROI for women’s representation and the damaging nature of gender-blind investments, more research is needed to parse out the different identities of women, such as women of color, women of varying income levels, LGBT people, and women living in the Global South.

 

Products and services for women

Very few companies directly address the needs of women, let alone the needs of women in the Global South. Jackie VanderBrug draws attention to the need for products that address the challenges that women face and how innovation has been gender-blind in many ways to date. In agriculture, for example, technology is “necessarily filtered through the gendered patterns of agricultural labour, household enterprises, family food consumption decisions and social structures.”

According to the SPRING Accelerator Investor Toolkit, “girls and young women do not need to be the direct end users to be impacted by a business’s products and services.” Investors can focus on ecosystems and specific industries, such as EdTech, that benefit and accelerate the success of women.

 

Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s Agricultural Transformation Initiative in Malawi

If the work of the Foundation and the work of the development community is to address the needs of the most marginalized peoples, we must strive to define inclusion beyond gender. While women continue to be underserved and underutilized along the value chain, we have the ability to think deeper and to address the many layered issues that the most marginalized women in the world face.

The Agricultural Transformation Initiative’s (ATI) Investment Support Facility (ISF) in Malawi is focused on integrating smallholders into investor-grade transactions. All transactions in the pipeline must include women in a substantial way, integrate significant numbers of smallholder farmers into their business models, and demonstrate meaningful income and productivity increases for smallholders. We seek to answer the question: What does it mean to truly and materially integrate and include all women?

If you have ideas for helping to ensure the ISF is an intersectional investment fund, please comment below! We are always looking for new ideas to ensure we support the most vulnerable communities in Malawi and are eager to have you be part of the conversation.

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GLI framework.tif (180.23 KB)

Tags:  Africa  capacity development  entrepreneurship  impact investing  Malawi  Women  women's economic empowerment 

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Working with investors to develop proactive talent strategies

Posted By Rebecca Harrison, African Management Initiative, Thursday, March 21, 2019

Working with investors to develop proactive talent strategies 

Human capital is a key challenge for many SGBs. Getting and keeping the right team in place is critical to propel ventures to scale – yet founding teams often struggle to find the right fit. Many investors in African companies have tolAMI they want to focus more post-investment support on developing talent within their investee companies. But they often aren’t sure how to develop a talent strategy that cuts across their investment portfolio.

AMI hosted a roundtable discussion in Nairobi last month for around 30 early and growth stage investors into East Africa interested in adopting more proactive talent strategies for their portfolio companies. We shared 3 models we’ve seen used to provide post-investment human capital support, and hosted a candid discussion around what is and isn’t working.

AMI identified the following three broad buckets for ways to engage around talent at a portfolio company level. We heard from various investors, who shared how they are using different approaches to help their investee companies build out the teams they need to scale.

Three models:

Facilitative model   This could also be described as the ‘matchmaking’ model. The facilitative model is used when investors help companies understand their talent needs, identify and introduce them to quality providers, and then show them how to engage. The investor’s role here is primarily diagnostic and facilitative, and aims to support needs that are specific to each founding teams/organisation. Some investors are using TA funds to finance these interventions.

Examples: For AHL Ventures, talent is one of the main post-investment challenges that companies across their portfolio face. They often work with their companies on creating a talent plan or helping them directly acquire talent. They also refer investee companies to talent providers, where appropriate, using experience on what has worked with other portfolio companies to inform recommendations. For example, AMI has worked with AHL to train employees in several of their investee companies, including MKOPAPowerGenEthioChicken and Equity for Tanzania.

A different approach within the facilitative model was shared by CDC Groupwhich is developing an online directory for investee companies providing information on different human capital services available, including services specific to talent development – training, recruiting etc. CDC aims to make this directory available more broadly with the goal of also building the broader ecosystem (see supply-side model below).

Direct model The direct model differs from the facilitative model, as it works to identify a very clear need across the investor’s portfolio, instead of working on a case-by-case basis. This model is focused on solving a specific challenge, for example developing middle managers, hiring CFOs or working on enterprise sales. The goal is to offer a structured programme or intervention that cuts across the entire portfolio. This approach is becoming increasingly popular as investors deepen their understanding around critical talent challenges, and is often funded by a blend of investor/TA subsidy and direct payment by the company.

Examples: Acumen identified a need across its portfolio to strengthen middle management skills and build leadership bench strength below the executive team. They first partnered with AMI 3 years ago to develop cross-portfolio programmes for both middle and senior managers and now run at least one programme annually. Interestingly, Acumen started by subsidising the programmes significantly, but has gradually phased this out. Companies now pay directly, and many have worked this into their annual planning and budgeting processes.

Shell Foundation took a similarly direct approach, offering AMI management programmes to companies across its portfolio on a cost share basis, after identifying management skills as a cross-cutting need. In this case, Shell Foundation allowed companies to engage AMI on their own terms, but provided the cost-share to make this possible. More than 100 have continued to work with AMI on a fully commercial basis, demonstrating that investors can often play a catalytic role in demonstrating the value of human capital services to companies.

Finally, Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P) hosts a pan-African entrepreneurship club for its portfolio companies, where portfolio companies are invited to exchange ideas and debate on various issues including recruitment and retention. I&P also hosts seminars on specific topics of interest to entrepreneurs.

Supply-side support A small and growing group of investors are working to strengthen the ecosystem of human capital providers itself, either through grants and investments into supply-side players, or through experimentation with innovative sector-building models.

Examples: Shell Foundation is working with Argidius Foundation and Bluehaven to develop a Talent Facility to encourage and enable early-stage enterprises to invest in talent even when cash is constrained. Bluehaven, AHL and I&P have all invested directly into human capital providers such as AMI and Shortlist. And both Bluehaven and Argidius Foundation have provided grants to build the talent ecosystem more broadly.

Top learnings from investors:

Each of the 30 investors in attendance have several years of experience working in the impact investment sector in East Africa and globally, and shared openly about what they’ve learned around human capital. Here are a few high-level learnings

    • Investors can and should influence, and even incentivise, founding teams to focus on talent. Investors noted that founders themselves needed to be bought into human capital as a strategic priority. Investors can make their expectations clear in this regard, both before investment during diue diligence and after investment, at a board level.
    • Human capital is a core strategic priority not a ‘nice to have’ – is it on the agenda at board meetings? Many companies and investors agree that talent is important, but then spend their board meetings talking about fund-raising and sales targets. Investors who sit on boards can push talent issues up the agenda by asking the right questions around talent strategy.
    • Proactive talent strategy is more effective than reactive crisis management: Investors have seen talent challenges emerge when companies grow very quickly. Investors can encourage companies to get the right human capital systems and structures in place ahead of (or at least at the beginning) of a period of aggressive growth, and can share lessons learned from other portfolio companies.
    • Investors have seen key needs cut across portfolio companies. Some key themes emerged from the discussion – for the example the need to develop middle management, the shortage of strong CFO candidates and challenges with enterprise sales. However investors working at different stages of the investment cycle noted that different approaches are required for early-stage businesses versus more mature companies. Investors can benefit from sharing notes with others investing at a similar stage.
    • Due diligence should include a structured focus on management capacity & learning mindset. Many investors are being more intentional and structured about probing the management capacity of founding teams and their broader leadership. Some noted the importance of ensuring that entrepreneurs themselves have a learning mindset, and so are likely to build a learning culture across the organisation.
    • Start with simple interventions that work – A quick and easy way to start leveraging your experience as an investor to drive talent development is to introduce functional heads from within your own portfolio to each other. For example, introducing the head of marketing from two of your investee companies to each other is extremely beneficial for growth, learning and innovation.

We’d love to hear from any investors who have tried approaches not listed here. What’s worked for you? What are you still trying to figure out? Can we help?

AMI delivers a practical and scalable approach to workplace learning using a blended methodology that combines online courses with in-person workshops and practical hands-on application. AMI has rolled out 70 programmes across 13 African countries and directly trained over 26,000 people, including hundreds working at investor-backed growth companies. In 2019, AMI was named one of the Companies to Inspire Africa by the London Stock Exchange Group.

Tags:  Africa  capacity development  east africa  emerging markets  Human Capital  impact investing  impact investment  investors  smes  social enterprise  social impact  talent  Training & Events 

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5 steps you can take today to start measuring your business impact

Posted By Nazila Vali, Business Call to Action at UNDP, Monday, July 16, 2018

How to start measuring the impact of your business to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

By Rabayl Mirza, Impact Management Specialist at the Business Call to Action 
 

Shea nut worker, Burkina Faso. Credit: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Impact measurement can be challenging if you have never done it before and don’t know where to start. Even the savviest professionals sometimes find it hard to choose between various tools, methodologies and frameworks available. Truth is, knowing what impact you’re making doesn’t have to be complicated. We have identified a few simple things anyone can do to kickstart impact measurement:

1. Write down your goals and put them up so you can refer to them every day. Having specific, measurable goals visible serves as a daily reminder to you and your team about what you’re working towards. Integrating your goals with the Sustainable Development Goals as a first step is a practical way to chart your progress towards the global agenda. 

2. 
Define your beneficiaries. Saying your project helps women and children is not enough. Identifying the exact demographic and profile is a critical step towards quantifying impact. It is especially important to get feedback on your impact from your beneficiaries and to not make any assumptions. L’Occitane, an inclusive business, worked with BCtA as part of the BIMS (BCtA Impact Measurement Services) to learn more about the women farmers they source their shea butter from. The specific insights emerging from that process about the needs of their beneficiaries helped them make their engagement more impactful. Read their case study

3. 
Give yourself a deadline. Breaking down targets into short term and long term is valuable so you can keep track of progress over time and know what needs to be prioritized. Aligning your targets with the SDG targets positions your efforts globally and helps communicate your impact clearly to your stakeholders.

4. 
Find out what your peers are doing. Research similar business models, get in touch with relevant experts in the field, and apply best practices where appropriate. The BIMS case studies, for example, represent a great source of information about the impact measurement journey of 21 inclusive businesses. 

5. 
Sign-up for the Lab! The Business Call to Action has developed an online lab, which takes you through 4 integrated modules to assess your readiness for impact measurement, define your goals and plans, monitor your impact data, and finally, analyze impact data and report your results. Signing up takes a minute and you can keep coming back to refine, review and update your impact measurement plans.  
 

Tags:  Africa  impact  impact management  impact measurement  inclusive business  inclusive innovation 

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African Management Initiative releases impact report: A scalable model that is transforming organisations and empowering thousands of small businesses

Posted By Rebecca Harrison, African Management Initiative, Thursday, June 21, 2018

Does talent development for SGBs really work? Talent has been on the SGB agenda for several years now, but the evidence base around impact, RoI, what works and why, has been thin. The African Management Initiative (AMI) has released its 2017 impact report, and for the first time, has generated data that starts to demonstrate a direct link between skills development in SGBs, and bottom-line business performance. The report demonstrates how a disruptive and scalable approach to learning has helped companies strengthen their teams and empowered thousands of small businesses, demonstrating real impact and return on investment for talent-forward SGBs. Dive into our impact data and read inspiring stories to learn more about our programmes for entrepreneurs, employees, managers and youth, and for reflections on what's working, and what can be improved.

 AMI in Numbers

The African Management Initiative is a social enterprise delivering Africa’s first scalable solution for workplace learning. AMI transforms African organizations, and empowers entrepreneurs, managers, entry-level workers and job-seekers through practical and affordable learning tools. At the end of 2017, AMI had trained almost 18,000 individuals through structured blended learning programmes in 11 African countries, including around 14,000 entrepreneurs. To date, a total of 55,000 individuals have engaged with the AMI online platform, and have downloaded over 1 million tools. In 2017, AMI expanded its portfolio, working with large intermediaries to serve thousands of entrepreneurs, while continuing to run management and leadership programmes directly with larger businesses, and organisations in health, education, and civil society.

For the first time this year, AMI generated data proving that its programmes not only help build the skills of the individual participants who take them, but also drive the business performance of organisations. This is a game changer in demonstrating how talent links with SGB performance, and in proving the RoI for developing people. AMI data showed that 92% of client leads saw improvements in management and leadership skills among their employees with 100% of clients saying business improved after they ran AMI learning programmes with their employees. Of those, 92% reported an improvement in operating efficiency and 92% reported improved customer satisfaction. As Richard Branson said, look after your staff, and your staff will look after your customers… Interestingly, investing in even just a small group of managers seemed to have a ripple effect more broadly on company culture, with 92% of clients reporting improved productivity across the whole company and 96% reporting improved engagement.

As well as running management and leadership programmes with the staff of growing and established businesses, AMI also reaches thousands of SMEs and entrepreneurs through partnerships with intermediaries – including many ANDE members. The report indicates that 100% of entrepreneurs who completed a post-programme survey saw a change in their business after engaging with AMI. Of these, 75% reported an improvement in revenue, 73% increased profit, 50% created new jobs and 35% secured debt or equity funding. All of them attributed that change at least partly to the AMI programme. To support SMEs and entrepreneurs even further, AMI has designed a new Grow Your Business programme, which aims to provide scalable business development support by giving SMEs the tools and support they need to embed good business practices into their companies. This programme is being tested rigorously through a Randomised Control Trial with a team of researchers at MIT. Watch this space for more data from this study later in the year.

 Read the full 2017 report to dig deeper into AMI’s current impact data and see what partners and clients are saying about the impact of the training programmes. 

VIEW THE FULL REPORT

 

 

Tags:  accelerators  Africa  East Africa  entrepreneurship  impact measurement  innovation  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  Skills Gap  small and growing businesses impact investing  social entrepreneurship  sustainability  talent  Training 

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GroFin - Transforming SGBs in Africa & the Middle East

Posted By Shailen Neewoor, GroFin, Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2018

Gain a deeper understanding of how GroFin, through its unique investment model in SGBs, is positively transforming small and growing businesses and the local communities they support. The inspiring success stories of its entrepreneurs exemplify the collaborative efforts of GroFin staff, investors, partners and clients. The 2017 GroFin Impact Report, Nomou Impact Report and Aspire Impact Report translates its faith in the power of the collective by asking the question “If not us, who? If not today, when? If not with our finance and support, how will these small businesses grow and succeed?”

2017 GroFin Impact Report

As at end 2017, GroFin has financed 675 small and growing businesses, supported 8,840 entrepreneurs, sustained a total of 86,190 jobs and touched the lives of 430,955 family members in the local communities across our 15 locations of operation in Africa and the Middle East. The report indicates that GroFin has made more investments in its priority sectors of education, healthcare, agribusiness, manufacturing and key services. Furthermore, GroFin invested US$ 60M in nearly 88 new small and growing businesses, with over 50% of the SMEs operating directly in our sectors of focus, sustaining 14,000 total jobs and supporting an additional 72,000 livelihoods. And to reinforce its value proposition of providing 'support beyond finance' the company introduced the GroFin STEP (Success through Effective Partnerships) Programme to support its SMEs and Entrepreneurs.

2017 Nomou Impact Report

The Nomou Programme is a regional initiative in MENA which was co-created by GroFin and Shell Foundation. As a result of the collaborative efforts of its investors, partners and clients, the Nomou programme is contributing to the alleviation of poverty and improvement of livelihoods in the communities where the programme operates, as well as striving to reduce the adverse impact of the humanitarian crisis in the region.

In 2017, the Nomou Programme supported 1,005 entrepreneurs, made investments into 103 SGBs, sustained a total of 10,287 jobs, touched the lives of 51,435 beneficiaries and added economic value of US$ 149 million per annum through its investee SMEs across Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Oman.

2017 Aspire Impact Report

Since their inception in 2014, the Aspire Small Business Fund (ASBF) and the Aspire Growth Fund (AGF) have sought to promote local entrepreneurship, employment and economic value-add in the Niger Delta. With the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) as anchor investor, the Aspire Enterprise Development Funds epitomise GroFin, a private development finance institution, and SPDC’s efforts to serve the local community with a combination of investment funds, business skills and market linkages.

In 2017 GroFin increased its commitment to supporting SMEs in the Niger Delta Region by investing in an additional 17 small and growing businesses and extending further funding of US$ 2.5M (140% increase from total amount invested as at end 2016). As at end of 2017, GroFin has supported 365 businesses, invested in 53 SMEs and sustained a total of 1,975 jobs under the Aspire Funds.

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Three Powerful Tools for Fintech Practitioners

Posted By Jane Del Ser, Bankable Frontier Associates, Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By David del Ser

(Watch our video)

Since we launched the Catalyst Fund in 2015, we have helped 15 fintech entrepreneurs deploy novel approaches to bring products and services to their customers. We have distilled the successful patterns and behaviors we have observed into toolkits and posts for those considering fintech methods for their businesses, whether they be startups or established players.


At a high level, successful fintech startups adopt principles of Design, Risk Management and Product Management, and also put modern technologies like smartphones, artificial intelligence and cloud computing at the core of their value propositions. At successful fintech startups Designers, Product Managers, CEOs and Engineers reinforce each other in multidisciplinary teams to explore the overlap between what customers find desirable, what engineers can build, and what the business requires to grow.

Design

The function of Design is to represent the voice of the customer at all times to make sure a company stays centered on what matters most. Design is not a one-off process. In the spirit of customer validation, designers keep tight feedback loops with customers throughout the product development process, from early prototypes to usability testing of new features.


Through user research (UX) techniques like online surveys and one-one-one interviews, designers invest heavily during initial stages in order to know their customers like the back of their hand; what are their problems and pain points, and how can their company help? In fact, designers segment customers into personas to allow the team to constantly keep in mind different user profiles and needs.


Aesthetics matter. Designers work hard to perfect a product’s UI and its look and feel, so it can live up to the high expectations created by WhatsApp or Google. But great design goes beyond just user research and visuals during early product design stages. Successful inclusive fintech startups map out the Customer Journey and Service Blueprint in detail to fully understand the perspective of the user each time they  interact with the company.


Ultimately, great design creates trust, that elusive quality that all startups are chasing and that distinguishes them from their competitors. We’ve captured our lessons for startups to build trust with their customers through their products or services in our Design for Trust Toolkit.


Product Management

But designers can’t work in isolation; they need someone to lead the orchestra - and that’s where a product manager comes in. The PM takes a big picture view and works to ensure that designers, engineers and marketers all work towards the same goal. Crucially, she makes sure the product or service goal is backed by data and evidence. She keeps the whole process nimble through quick agile iterations focused on the activities of users, from initial onboarding to the retention phase. For example, using A/B Testing and usage analytics she captures details of how each users is interacting with every screen to inform engagement.


The effective product manager is very focused on the key metrics for the business, such as customer lifetime value or acquisition costs. She also works hard to explore the best channels to find new customers, including viral referrals and social media. As an example, our portfolio company Destacame has seen lead acquisition costs dropping to less than $3 through these types of digital channels. We explore some of the different tools and frameworks to help startups focus as they chart their journey from idea, to minimum viable product (MVP) and growth in our upcoming product/market fit toolkit.

Modern Technologies

And finally, you can’t have good fintech without the “tech” that is enabling these new approaches.


Most important are the smartphones, which run fintech apps and also act as channels to find and interact with users. For instance, several of our startups use WhatsApp to offer customer support and drive virality, communicating with users in the way they prefer. Smartphones can also be used to generate and capture user data, which is particularly valuable when targeting low-income consumers who traditionally have been anonymous. In that vein, our portfolio company Smile Identity validates and authenticates customer identities using selfies taken on their phones.


In addition machine learning and other artificial intelligence systems can improve customer value propositions and to automate internal processes like credit scoring using data from smartphones and other new sources like satellites. As an example, our portfolio company ToGarantido is exploring chatbots for sales of their insurance policies and customer support. Harvesting is using satellite data to understand credit and insurance risk with just a GPS read. Worldcover doesn’t even need customers to file a claim as their satellite systems award them automatically.


And software engineering helped Escala and Paygo Energy to automate most of their back-office processes to be responsive to their customers. It is easier and more affordable than ever for startups to leverage affordable SaaS solutions to architect their systems. Likewise, cloud computing is also a powerful technology that offers simplicity, lower costs and flexibility. There is no need to commit capital to purchase hardware and the team requires less engineering talent to keep the servers going.

Conclusion

In our experience, companies that harness the powerful combination of design, product management and modern technologies create better and more tailored value propositions. That makes for happier customers, which is what makes businesses thrive. By driving more usage, the fintech triad can create more impact in low-income populations. And digital channels and automated processes can significantly lower costs of serving customers, allowing for expansion to new markets and reducing exclusion.


Learn more by joining us for our webinar on the Catalyst Fund toolkits during the ANDE Sector Update call in January. Register here.


Tags:  Acceleration  accelerator  accelerators  Africa  ANDE Africa  Base of the Pyramid  brazil  Business Models  capacity development  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  entrepreneurship  finance  financial inclusion  fintech  Grants Rockefeller  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive innovation  India  India; ANDE members  innovation  Kenya  Latin America  mentoring  Mexico  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  smaholder farmers  smes  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship  social innovation  webinar  West Africa 

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Research Meets Africa: the Call for Papers is open!

Posted By María Belén Zambrano, Appui au Développement Autonome, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Call for Papers: Research Meets Africa

9th October 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Research Meets Africa aims to promote research and innovation on inclusive finance in Africa. It encourages collaboration between researchers and practitioners of the sector by involving universities from Africa and around the world. The event will be held on the 9th of October 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia alongside African Microfinance Week.

 Researchers are invited to submit their research papers on this topic:

                        "What solutions respond to the growth needs of MSMEs in Africa?" 

For any question, please contact the Conference Team:rmateam@ada-microfinance.lu

Or visit our website: http://www.ada-microfinance.org/en/events/african-microfinance-week/research-meets-africa

 The submission deadline is 30th May 2017!

 

 Attached Files:

Tags:  access to finance  Africa  capacity development  conference  Microfinance  Research  SMEs 

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Innovation event in Nairobi

Posted By Meredith Ettridge, Royal Academy of Engineering, Monday, April 3, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4SwfFDxiz4

The 2017 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation final will take place at a celebratory evening event on 23 May. Finalists from a group of 16 talented entrepreneurs will pitch their projects to the audience and the judging panel during the event.

You will have the chance to vote for your favourite and see the winner be announced following the judges' final decision. More opportunities to network will follow as the event draws to a close.

Location: Radisson Blu, Nairobi, Kenya
Dates: May 23 2017
Registration is free: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/africa-innovates-tickets-32888087154#tickets

Contact: africaprize@raeng.org.uk

Tags:  Africa  Entrepreneurship  Events  innovation  Kenya 

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