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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.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  2017  A Access to Finance  Access to Finance  Africa  Agriculture  ANDE Africa  ANDE Members  Base of the Pyramid  Business  business training  capacity development  DGGF  East Africa  education  finance  impact  impact investing  impact investing; gender lens investing; gender; w  impact investment  impact measurement  innovation  Investors  Kenya  MENA  missing middle  Philanthropy; impact investing  Private sector development  Rwanda  SDGs  SGB  SGBs  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  SGBs; West Africa; Senegal; Africa; MENA; Entrepre  small and growing agrobusiness  smes  social impact  South Africa  sustainability  sustainable development  Tanzania  Training  Uganda  West Africa 

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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!

 

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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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Partnerships to impact low-income markets in Kenya and East Africa

Posted By Chandrakant Komaragiri, Ennovent, Friday, June 3, 2016
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2016

Ennovent is seeking partners who work in sectors including Education, Healthcare, Agri-business, Finance, WASH,  Energy and others, who are interested in collaborating on business opportunities in Kenya. Partners can be individuals and organisations including consultants, development agencies, foundations, investors and corporations.


Benefits for partners will include the opportunity to collaborate with a diversified network, develop and implement innovation projects to address business opportunities, and build on knowledge and expertise on pertinent issues.


If you are interested in partnering with Ennovent, please fill out this short form, and we will be in touch with you.


We would also like to request you to share this exciting partnership opportunity widely in your network and help in making a sustainable impact in Kenya together.

Tags:  Africa  Agriculture  Base of the Pyramid  Creating Shared Value  East Africa  entrepreneurship ecosystems  inclusive innovation  Kenya  Private sector development  social innovation  sustainability  sustainable development 

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GE and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Partner to Accelerate Mother and Child Health Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Posted By Patricia Haines, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, Tuesday, March 29, 2016

 GE and Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Partner to Accelerate 

Mother and Child Health Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa 

GE’s healthymagination commitment and Miller Center’s GSBI® will provide expertise, resources and growth opportunities for social entrepreneurs working on maternal and child health 

 

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 29, 2016 - GE and Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship today announced a partnership that blends Silicon Valley entrepreneurial acumen with venture impact investing to tackle one of the world’s most pressing problems: maternal and child health. 

The partnership will focus on a training and mentoring program for social entrepreneurs working on maternal and child health innovations in sub-Saharan Africa. The program enables more women to experience better health by improving the quality, access and affordability of care. 

 

The partnership objectives support key elements of ‘Good Health and Well-being’, which is #3 of the 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” set by the United Nations, and focuses on the reduction of the global maternal mortality ratio and ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age. 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program will help social enterprises operating in sub-Saharan Africa addressing maternal and/or child health strengthen their business models, refine business plans, reinforce organizational development, manage talent and learn how to scale sustainably. The program is being offered to 15-to-20 selected participants. 

 

“This program supports GE’s long track record in developing innovations for emerging markets while increasing positive health outcomes,” said Sue Siegel, CEO, GE Ventures and healthymagination. “We are excited to join Miller Center to accelerate the growth of social enterprises and commercialize innovative ideas while serving as a resource for entrepreneurs working to improve access, affordability and quality of maternal and child health in sub-Saharan Africa.” 

 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program utilizes Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) methodology, which has been proven and refined over 12 years of helping accelerate more than 560 social enterprises worldwide. The program will begin with a three-day, in-person workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, followed by a six-month online program accompanied by weekly, in-depth mentoring from Silicon Valley-based executives. Additionally, by introducing participants to GE’s portfolio of products, organizations will gain specialized support and training on technologies and resources for the maternal and child health sector. 

 

“We share GE’s healthymagination vision for innovating new ways to address global health challenges,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “The partnership between GE and Miller Center highlights the potential for social entrepreneurship to improve maternal and child health in a region of the world that has limited access to skilled health care providers.” 

 

“This unique collaboration is an opportunity to increase the access and familiarity of GE solutions in Africa,” said Jay Ireland, President and CEO of GE Africa. "The healthymagination Mother & Child program will empower sub-Saharan African social enterprises with skills training and economic development needed to improve maternal and child health across communities." 

 

Social Enterprises Invited to Apply to the Program 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program is aimed at social enterprises focused in the following areas: 

  • Delivery of health services to mothers and children 
  • Medical equipment distribution, training, use or maintenance 
  • Development of products or technologies that improve knowledge and/or access to care, such as telemedicine, mobile technologies, data analysis or image interpretation or 
  • Infrastructure services or facilities associated with needs from pregnancy to pediatric care 

To be considered for the program, qualified leaders of for-profit, non-profit or hybrid enterprises need to apply online by May 18, 2016. The selected finalists will be announced after a formal review and interview process by a panel of judges from GE and Miller Center. 

 

The panel will evaluate applicant social enterprises based on whether they: 

  • Have operating ventures beyond the ideation stage 
  • Have a validated business model with a product or service in the marketplace 
  • Have a sustainable financial model that can be scaled over time 

Six-Month Accelerator Program Capped by Investor Showcase 

The healthymagination Mother & Child program will end where it launched, in Nairobi, with an Investor Showcase event in February 2017. The 15-to-20 program finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their enterprises and health care innovations to a large and wide-ranging group of active investors in early-stage social enterprises. 

 

For more information on the program and application, visit http://www.scu.edu/mother-and-child 

 

About GE 

GE (NYSE: GE) is the world’s Digital Industrial Company, transforming industry with software-defined machines and solutions that are connected, responsive and predictive. GE is organized around a global exchange of knowledge, the "GE Store," through which each business shares and accesses the same technology, markets, structure and intellect. Each invention further fuels innovation and application across our industrial sectors. With people, services, technology and scale, GE delivers better outcomes for customers by speaking the language of industry. www.ge.com 

 

About GE’s healthymagination commitment 

GE’s healthymagination commitment is about better health for more people. We continuously develop and invest in innovations that deliver high-quality, more affordable healthcare to more people around the world. For more information about our healthymagination commitment, visit www.gesustainability.com

 

About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship 

Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication through its three areas of work: The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), Impact Capital and Education and Action Research. To learn more about Miller Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter. 

 

About Santa Clara University 

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry and theology; and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.’s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu. 

 

© 2016 GSBI is a registered trademark of Santa Clara University. All rights reserved.

 

Tags:  Africa  ANDE Africa  social entrepreneurship  Women 

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Running Without Shoes: Plight of the Smallholder Farmer

Posted By Simone Fugar, Esoko, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A blog by Hillary Miller-Wise, CEO of Esoko 

Imagine you had to run a 10 km race without running shoes. Certainly you would make do with what you had, but you probably would end up blistered and near the back of the pack. In a simplistic way, this is what smallholder farmers in Africa experience every day. But in their case, their lives depend on it.

Most smallholder farmers in Africa are farming without the tools and knowledge they need. They don’t have access to inputs like quality seed and fertilizer that would allow them to produce more. Some countries have tried to solve this problem by subsidizing inputs with the intention of making them more affordable. In the end, though, the result is like giving the runner one shoe to run the race.

Subsidies are fraught with problems. Often the administration is so poor that the inputs don’t arrive in time for the season. Those who benefit most tend to be less-poor, more highly educated, well-connected and men. Subsidies tend to “crowd out” private sector supply, and they often drive farmers to over-produce the subsidized crop, such as maize, which can lead to negative changes in diet and nutrition as production of other crops like legumes is reduced.

Even when smallholder farmers are able to procure subsidized inputs, the product is often still too expensive for them. In Ghana, for example, a bag of fertilizer on the open market costs Ghs 120, or about $30. The government subsidy reduces the price to Ghs 90, or about $23. While the lower price certainly helps, it is still out of reach for many smallholder farmers, who have little cash at the time that they need to purchase the inputs. This is the main problem: it’s often not a question of overall income for farmers, but rather of cash flow. Farmers may well be able to afford inputs right after harvest, but they are often out of cash just prior to the planting season. And most of these farmers can’t borrow money to bridge the gap because, as we know, most banks won’t lend to them. One of the few options left is to borrow informally at very high interest rates, which eats into their profits at harvest time.

In order to break this cycle, farmers need to accumulate financial assets from production surpluses. In other words, they need to put some of the money they earn during harvest time into savings in order to purchase quality inputs for the next season.

Savings practices are already very widespread among more commercially-oriented smallholder farmers, as documented by CGAP in its recently published Smallholder Diaries report. Many smallholders keep their savings in-kind or under the mattress, presenting a clear opportunity to offer them more avenues to store money.

For less commercially-oriented smallholders, improved agronomic practices and better agricultural risk management would also be important, according to CGAP. Off-takers interested in reaching smallholders, for example, would need to bundle agronomic support and financial tools, the report says.

While subsidized inputs have proven to increase production for smallholder farmers who are able to access them, they tend to treat the symptom rather than the underlying disease, which is, at least in part, a combination of the high cost of inputs, farmers’ inability to store money safely when they can, and poor knowledge of improved agricultural practices to increase the return on investment when they are able to procure the inputs.

To tackle these problems in a sustainable way, we need to improve the way that input and financial markets function for poor smallholders. One way to do this is by creating incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farm. These incentives should include access to discounted inputs based on market principles such as bulk purchases, access to vital market and agronomic information, guaranteed yield increases and protection against crop failure, and access to markets.

An input subsidy is like giving a runner one running shoe. Creating market incentives for smallholders to save and invest in their farms is like giving the runner the complete pair and the motivation to cross the finish line.

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Tags:  access to finance  Africa  agriculture  fintech  ICT4D  inputs  smallholder farmers  social entrepreneurship 

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CrossBoundary Energy Fund I raises $8M - First dedicated fund for C&I solar in Africa

Posted By CrossBoundary, Monday, December 7, 2015

CrossBoundary Energy today announced the first close of CrossBoundary Energy Fund I, Africa’s first dedicated fund for Commercial & Industrial solar. Over the next 18 months, the fund will deploy over $25M to build solar facilities to power African enterprises through the SolarAfrica platform.

Due to a dramatic fall in cost, solar is now a viable alternative energy source for businesses in Africa. But it needs finance to be attractive.

Across Africa, economic growth is stifled by expensive and unreliable electricity. This challenge represents an immense opportunity for investment. Matt Tilleard, co-Managing Partner of CrossBoundary observed, “Africa is undergoing an energy revolution and has become a laboratory for pioneering new methods of energy delivery. A key driver of this has been the dramatic fall in cost of solar power – down by over 80% since 2008. Solar is now often cheaper than the grid in a majority of African countries”

Jake Cusack, co-Managing Partner at CrossBoundary, noted that “For many of the businesses that drive Africa’s growth, solar power is now an alternative source of cheaper and cleaner energy. However adoption remains low due to two barriers. First, solar has a substantial upfront cost. Without financing, solar installers are typically only able to offer upfront purchase of the solar system.  This means that the customer has to pay the full cost of 25 years of electricity on the first day. Second, many customers are unfamiliar with solar and reluctant to take responsibility for the technical and operational details of the system.”

Mr Tilleard said, “In markets such as the US, both these barriers were removed through the introduction of financed solar solutions. Instead of paying upfront, the financier builds the solar asset and the customer enters into a long term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). With today’s announcement, we are bringing the same financed solar solutions to Africa. Financing is now available to make cheaper, cleaner energy a reality for African enterprise.”

Empowering project developers through the SolarAfrica platform

CrossBoundary Energy will deploy its investment capital through SolarAfrica, a platform that provides solar installers a fully financed ‘PPA in a box’ to offer customers. SolarAfrica brings together CrossBoundary Energy’s financing with technical oversight and asset management services from NVI Energy. Through SolarAfrica, CrossBoundary Energy allows solar installers to offer Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to African firms – enabling them to pay for the solar assets over time, just as they would pay for grid electricity or diesel fuel.

Mr Tilleard said “SolarAfrica already has a strong network of partners and we are actively looking for new installers or developers who are interested in offering a financed solar solution to their potential customers. We are currently in operation in Kenya and are hoping to expand to up to three additional countries in the next three to six months. Our funding is available for solar projects above 100 kWp that serve commercial and industrial customers.”

A ground-breaking transaction

CrossBoundary Energy has raised US$8m in equity to provide solar power for African enterprises. After debt leverage, CrossBoundary Energy Fund I intends to invest a total of over US$25m in solar assets over the next 18 months.

Mr Cusack observed, “The fund is a unique and innovative financing platform that will pioneer an entire new asset class in Africa. It is backed by a prestigious group of investors from the USA and Australia attracted both by the commercial returns and the opportunity for positive environmental and economic impact.” Investors include Blue Haven Initiative, TreeHouse Investments and Ceniarth.

Power Africa has been a crucial supporter of CrossBoundary Energy. Through Power Africa, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provided an early-stage grant to support establishment costs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided a $1.3M first-loss contribution to the fund. Mr Tilleard noted that this “was a groundbreaking innovation by USAID that helped attract private investors to this opportunity.”

In addition, the Shell Foundation, an independent charity, has also provided grant funding and business support to accelerate CrossBoundary's expansion into markets outside of Kenya and lay the groundwork for follow-on funds.

The transaction was led by Chadbourne & Parke LLP with local counsel support from the Africa Legal Network and Viva Africa. Ikenna Emehelu, a partner at Chadbourne said: "We helped solar companies create a market for distributed energy in the US.  We have seen that mass-market adoption of renewable energy occurs not when technology becomes available, but when it becomes affordable. By pooling institutional capital to finance upfront installation costs of solar systems, CrossBoundary has made solar affordable for the malls, hotels, schools and small businesses it serves in Africa.  Chadbourne congratulates the CrossBoundary team whose tenacity and vision has unlocked a promising new market in Africa."

CrossBoundary Energy’s first investment pioneers new ground in East Africa

At fund close CrossBoundary Energy also announced that its first major investment is an 858 kWp solar installation at the newly opened Garden City Mall in Nairobi. Mr Tilleard announced “It is the largest rooftop solar system in East Africa and the largest solar carport system in Africa. It is also the largest solar PPA that we are aware of with a private consumer in Sub-Saharan Africa.   This is an exciting first step on CrossBoundary Energy and SolarAfrica’s mission to introduce solar-as-service to African enterprises.”

Conclusion

Providing clean energy for African businesses represents a major commercial and environmental opportunity. The development of innovative energy financing and business models in Africa means the continent could have smarter, cleaner and more decentralized electricity infrastructure than developed countries. Mr Cusack noted that “Through the first dedicated fund for Commercial & Industrial solar, CrossBoundary Energy hopes to help Africa take a clean path to development through a transition to improved infrastructure and increased economic productivity with minimized environmental impact.”

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About CrossBoundary

CrossBoundary is an innovative investment firm that provides transaction and economic advisory services to help unlock capital for positive change in underserved markets. The firm was founded in 2011 and has worked across a range of frontier markets and also developed innovative mechanisms to attract investment in fragile states affected by conflict such as Afghanistan and Mali. Recently, the firm has launched CrossBoundary Energy, the first dedicated investment fund for commercial and industrial solar in Africa. 

 

Tags:  africa  Business Models  Capital Aggregation  East Africa  energy  finance  Financing Mechanisms  impact investing  impact investment  Investors  Kenya  Private sector development  sustainability  sustainable energy 

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