In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people currently live without electricity and spend $17 billion a year on dirty, inefficient energy. On April 17, 2019, Acumen - a US-based nonprofit organisation that makes early stage investments in sustainable and socially minded businesses officially announced the launch of its energy-focused fund.
The fund, KawiSafi Ventures, was announced through Acumen’s subsidiary Acumen Capital Partners. The US $70 million fund is aimed at accelerating access to clean energy solutions for low-income populations in East Africa.
The KawiSafi Ventures fund aims to deliver clean, affordable energy to 10 million people, at least half of whom live in poverty, and displace more than one million tons of carbon dioxide in the next 10 years, to address energy poverty and help avert the current climate crisis
According to a press release shared with Digest Africa, KawiSafi Ventures has already deployed part of the funds raised. “To date, KawiSafi has invested $21 million to impact 4.3 million people and avert 360 thousand tons of carbon dioxide emissions,” noted the press release. On their website, the fund states that they have invested in BBOXX, d.light design, Lendable and Redavia Solar.
In an email to Digest Africa, the fund pointed out that they also “recently invested in Opes Solutions”, a Berlin-headquartered off-grid solar module company. They did not reveal how much they invested in the company. Though the fund informed Digest Africa Africa that they make equity investments of between US $4 Million and US $8 Million.
KawiSafi Ventures is only being made public now, but it has been investing in energy startups operating across East Africa dating back to more than three years ago. In August 2016, it participated in BBOXX’s US $20 million Series C according to CrunchBase data. The firm also led d.light design’s US $15 million Series D in September 2016 as well as Lendables’ US $6.5 million Series A in October 2017.
The fund’s limited partners include Green Climate Fund, AXA IM and Acumen. KawiSafi is managed by Acumen Capital Partners LLC, an Acumen-owned subsidiary that structures and manages funds investing in social enterprises poised to scale to transform the lives of low-income people everywhere and solve some of poverty’s most significant challenges.
According to Digest Africa Data, other than KawiSafi Ventures, the additional notable energy focussed fund raised in 2018/19 was the $42.5m Solar Energy Debt Fund managed by Sun Funder.
In 2018 and 2019 to date, there have been other notable investments made in the renewable energy sector, these have included Zola Electrics ($87.5m), PEG Africa ($26.5m), Daystar Power Africa ($26.0m), Azuri Technologies ($22.4m), M-Kopa ($10m+), Solar Now ($9.7m). The more massive investments are mostly in the form of debt financing or late venture (Series C+) investment.
Except for PEG Africa and Daystar Power Africa, the big players in terms of funding raised appear to have an East Africa region focus. Also, predominantly, the companies backed have been co-founded or have executives originating from either North America or Europe.