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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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Join the BiD Network Impact Investment Trip Rwanda & Uganda

Posted By Gert van Veldhuisen, BiD Network, Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Are you interested in investing in increasingly attractive destinations for foreign investments? For the fourth time, BiD Network organises an Impact Investment Trip to Rwanda & Uganda. From 10 - 16 March, BiD Network offers potential angel investors the opportunity to visit a number of well-prepared businesses from their portfolio.

The trip offers angel investors:

  • Unique opportunity to personally meet Rwandan & Ugandan entrepreneurs
  • Get insights in impact investing in Rwanda & Uganda
  • Potentially co-invest with a group of like-minded investors
  • Opportunity to create a positive impact together with financial return

Interested in joining this year’s trip? The cost of the trip is 2,500 EUR, including accommodation, flight Kigali - Entebbe, all other logistics and all meals, but excluding VAT and intercontinental flights. Space is limited, so secure your spot now by contacting BiD Network’s CEO Gert van Veldhuisen (gert.vanveldhuisen@bidnetwork.org). More information: https://www.bidnetwork.org/impact-investment-trip-rwanda-uganda/

Tags:  East Africa  event  impact investment  investors 

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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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Shortlist and Spire: Building Africa’s First Full-Stack Talent Platform

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Shortlist and Spire: Building Africa’s First Full-Stack Talent Platform
By Grace Horwitz 


Last November, Spire Education, one of Blue Haven’s portfolio companies, merged with Shortlist, a talent sourcing and screening business operating across India and Kenya. The merger was a first for the Blue Haven portfolio, but also for the broader human capital industry in East Africa. With complementary offerings, the combined Shortlist-Spire team is now capable of supporting clients across the talent spectrum. As Shortlist CEO, Paul Breloff, put it in his November announcement, “This is a match made in heaven…Shortlist can help companies build their teams, and Spire can help make sure those teams are equipped with the skills needed to succeed.” As we celebrate the three-month anniversary of the Shortlist-Spire union in Nairobi this week with Paul, Jenn (former Spire CEO and now MD of Africa for Shortlist and Spire) and the rest of the Shortlist-Spire team, here’s why we’re excited to have them in the Blue Haven family.

Last year, Lauren and I discussed why human capital is important to us as investors. While our website is littered with the logos of portfolio companies, a more accurate depiction of what we’re betting on might be a photo collage of the teams behind them. Companies are only as good as the people that run them, and that means hiring, training and retaining the best talent. Regardless of the industry, most executives cite people as their most important asset. However, in their quest to retain more “A-players,” very few feel as though they’ve cracked the code to maximize potential across roles, levels, and functional areas.

This problem is particularly challenging for quickly-growing small and medium sized businesses that lack dedicated resources and the staff time to focus on talent. As part of a small organization, I’m familiar with this tension. It took my boss, Lauren, over a year to hire her first Associate (me) because she was juggling days that looked like this. We just hired our second Associate, Sarah, and I’m positive I’ve underdelivered in the onboarding and training category in more ways than one (sorry Sarah!). This makes for a vicious cycle — small and medium sized businesses are painfully constrained for time and resources, making it difficult to invest in hiring, upskilling, and retaining employees, which in turns puts even more pressure on an already overworked team — a so-called talent hamster wheel.

The reality is, sometimes we need help from the outside. But when it comes to hiring and developing your employees, it can be hard to find the right partner. The traditional mode of outsourcing HR activities tends to be of the transactional, hit-and-run nature — hire a head hunter to track down a bunch of CVs ASAP, and they do it, but without understanding culture, the business itself, or what soft skills a candidate will require. Or management brings someone in to conduct a half-day training for junior staff, and while you may feel pretty good after a couple of trust falls, three months down the road you realize that the exercise had no real impact on your employees’ performance. And when these talent service providers are all separate companies, you spend a lot of time re-explaining exactly what you’re looking for in an ideal team member — wouldn’t it be nice if the same people who hired your new sales team were the ones who trained them too?

Point solutions that claim to offer “just-in-time” support are not always the best approach, especially in the context of building an effective team that is capable of achieving its full potential over time — weeks, months and years. Most firms (unless you’re Google) don’t have the privileges of skimming the best candidates from the top of a stagnant talent pool. That means employers have to start taking a more integrated and proactive approach across the talent life cycle to truly optimize investment in talent. They will need to leverage a combination of technology and human touch to test the competencies of candidates rather than taking resumes at face value and spend time with employees to teach the soft skills and attitudes that drive success in management roles.

Having seen our portfolio companies struggle with talent issues of all flavors and varieties, we are pumped about what Shortlist-Spire is bringing to market in Kenya. Spire and Shortlist focus on different pieces of the talent value chain, but long-term results will be mutually dependent. While Shortlist screens candidates on the basis of competency (not just CV and connections!), Spire helps those candidates reach their full potential through end-to-end talent development and training. In an ideal world, this makes for a seamless bump-set-spike model of maximizing human potential. Though I think both Paul and Jenn would agree that there is still lots to figure out, the Blue Haven Team is excited to be along for the ride!

Originally published on Medium.

Tags:  East Africa  talent 

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Off-Grid Refrigerator Partnership

Posted By Anne Stewart, Jibu, L3C, Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fellow ANDE Members: if you are interested in applying for the Global Leap competition for an Off-Grid Refrigerator solution,  Jibu would be happy to discuss partnership. While Jibu does not have refrigerator technology, we have a successful sales & distribution model in East Africa implementing innovative water filtration technology. Please email <anne@jibuco.com> if interested. 

Global Leap Awards: Off – Grid Refrigerator Competition.

The Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP), in partnership with USAID's U.S. Global Development Lab, Power Africa, and DfID has launched a joint call for high efficiency, low-cost off-grid refrigeration solutions. This call for proposals is part of the 2016-17 Global LEAP Awards Program, and is the first investment focused on stimulating innovation under Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development. The competition aims to increase the availability of high-efficiency, low-cost, high-demand refrigeration technologies, and in turn drive demand for off-grid solar solutions, such as solar home systems and mini-grids. Submit nominations by January 20, 2017.
For more information, please click here.

Tags:  East Africa  energy  Entrepreneurship  fridge  Jibu  refrigerator  water 

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New report - 'Training Talent: Best practice in workplace learning & management development in Africa'

Posted By Rebecca Harrison, African Management Initiative, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Effective managers and entrepreneurs hold the key to Africa’s prosperity. Yet organisations cite a talent gap, and traditional training models seem to be broken. Africa needs a fresh approach to help millions of managers, entrepreneurs and professionals build the skills needed to drive their organisations – and the continent - forward.  

This new report by the African Management Initiative (AMI) draws on fresh data on Africa’s critical talent gap and presents new insights on how to address it through workplace learning and development. We list eight key findings about what is needed, and about what effective workplace learning looks like in an African context, with a particular focus on SGBs. 

This report is a must-read for senior leaders in African organisations who want to address the talent gap in their own organisations. It is also invaluable for impact investors ad intermediaries who want to build talent in portfolio companies, donors interested in workforce development, banks and investors looking to strengthen small business clients, university leaders that want to equip graduates for jobs and anyone with an interest in developing Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs, managers and professionals. 

Our findings include insights on where demand for training is most urgent - what kinds of organisations most need to prioritise talent development, and what level in the organisation is most vulnerable? We look at what kind of skills are needed most – the results are sometimes surprising. 

We also look at what works, drawing on international best practice and our own experience developing talent in African organisations. We argue that to translate training into improved performance, organisations must look beyond individual skill-building to the embedding of organisational habits. We push beyond traditional training approaches such as courses and workshops to explore experiential learning, on-the-job feedback and accountability. We look at how technology can enable sophisticated personalised learning at vastly reduced cost. Finally we present our own preferred ‘blended learning’ solution and share data that illustrates how effective workplace learning programmes can deliver real results.

Download the full report here. Get in touch with Rebecca Harrison at rebecca@africanmanagers.org for more information about AMI or the report, and look our for us at the ANDE annual conference!

 

Tags:  east africa  South Africa  talent  Training & Events  West Africa 

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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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Career Accelerator: Social Innovation Management Fellowship - Call for Applications

Posted By Geraldine Hepp, Amani Institute, Monday, December 14, 2015
Updated: Monday, December 14, 2015

Change someone's life - share this opportunity for aspiring changemakers to join a global Fellowship and take their career to the next level! 

We have received some of our best applicants thanks to people like you, and we would love to see the power of our community once again - so we can find the changemakers who are looking to build the professional skills and global networks needed to lead change effectively.

You can learn more about our Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management and its changed structure here
Amani Institute Graduates now have an exciting opportunity through our partnership with Lynn University, where our program counts 25% towards a new MBA in Social Innovation Management that can be completed both on campus or online.

The most effective way to share this is via direct 
recommendation and shouldn't take longer than 3 minutes of your time but could mean a life-changing opportunity for someone in your network.

Fellows who have benefitted most from this program have been:

  • Career-switchers
  • Recent Graduates
  • Social change sector professionals 

committed to taking their work to the next level. Selection criteria:

  • A University degree (undergrad or masters)
  • At least two years of practical experience (either working or volunteering)
  • Evidence of commitment to social change through your personal and/or professional life
  • Strong desire to develop yourself further both professionally and personally
  • Interest in gaining a further global perspective to your previous experiences

Find a sample text, an infographic and a video for you to pass on below but also feel free to directly nominate and connect us via Email, allowing for a no-strings attached conversation with someone you nominate as a potential Social Innovation Management Fellow

_____________________________________________________________________
Feel free to use the below infographic about the different phases of the program and the following sample text for easy sharing:

Dear [Name],

Considering your passion for meaningful work, I highly recommend Amani Institute'scutting-edge 10 month Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management: 4 months field immersion in Kenya or Brazil, 10 professional skill-building courses taught by global experts, a customized apprenticeship, 3 inspiring field trips, 20+ like-minded classmates from around the world, and much more. 

In 10 months, expand your professional network, get global experience in how to tackle some of the toughest challenges, and learn how to change the world! Apply now: bit.ly/amani2016

Learn more about Amani Institute's partnership with Lynn University if you are interested in an MBA in Social Innovation Management herebit.ly/SocInnMBA

Application Deadline: January 11th, 2016
Program start: February 1st, 2016

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Tags:  Base of the Pyramid  business training  capacity development  career in social changeSocial Entrepreneurship  CSR  diaspora  East Africa  education  emerging markets  fellowship  impact evaluation  innovation  Latin America  social entrepreneurship  social innovation  talent 

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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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