Are you looking for capital to start a new business or grow an existing business in Africa?
Have you tried other alternative sources of funding but failed?
Is capital the biggest obstacle standing between you and that idea, business, or project you’re so passionate about?
These days, there are thousands of opportunities, organisations, funds, investors, and financiers that actively invest in businesses and projects across Africa
And every year, they spend over $100 million (combined) on the continent.
Many of these sources provide funding as equity or debt. And several of them provide grant funding, donations, and prize money.
Since 2015, several of our students and clients have raised over $5 million in grants, equity, and debt funding from local and international funding sources, for different types of businesses and projects.
To help make this possible, we curated an Investor Catalog that contains the profiles of just over 100 vetted investors that actively invest and support entrepreneurs in Africa.
In this article, I want to introduce you to some of the investors and organisations in our Catalogue.
Whether you’re looking for a grant, loan, or investment in your business idea or company, you should be knocking on the doors of organisations like these.
Let’s meet them…
1) Seedstars Africa
Seedstars is an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in high-growth businesses that are active in sub-Saharan Africa.
It is a member of the Seedstars Group, a Swiss-based venture builder that has invested in businesses and networks in over 40 countries.
Every year the organisation sponsors the Seedstars World Competition, a series of local and regional competitions in emerging markets that awards a grand prize of $500,000 to the overall international winner.
In 2014, Seedstars invested $330,000 in SimplePay, a young Nigerian third-party payment processing company that created a solution to disrupt payment services in Nigeria and Africa.
In 2016, Giraffe, a South African virtual recruitment start-up, beat 54 other finalists to win the $500K grand prize at the international pitch competition in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 2018, Ghana’s agritech startup Agrocenta, won the $500K Seedstars Competition grand prize.
To date, alumni of the Seedstars World Competition have raised more than $250 million in additional funding from investors.
Seedstars is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs building a business that involves technology.
Even if you don’t win the $500K grand prize, you will get a lot of benefits from the exposure, expert feedback, training, and networking opportunities.
Seedstars is a highly competitive source of funding that requires you to be really good at pitching yourself, your ideas, and your business to the panel of judges.
One of our students, Maxwell Adew of Kuueza, learned and successfully applied our pitch techniques to win the regional Seedstars World competition in Ghana in 2019.
And some of our students, like Anne Rweyora of Smart Havens Africa, used the same pitch techniques to emerge as a finalist and won a £10,000 prize in the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, an international pitch competition organised by the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering.
2) African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF)
The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) is the first pan-African women’s grantmaker in Africa. Since the start of its operations in 2001, it has provided over $17 million in grants to 800 women’s organizations in 42 African countries.
AWDF’s grants are focused on supporting the initiatives of African women who may not have access to mainstream funding due to capacity, language, location, and marginalisation.
In fact, the AWDF has served as a key donor to 60% of grantees who experienced serious challenges to sustainable funding.
The organisation gets its funds from several international donors that include the Ford Foundation, OSIWA, and the Hewlett Foundation, and also belongs to the International Network of Women’s Funds.
AWDF finances local, national, sub-regional, and regional organizations in Africa working towards women’s empowerment, and provides grants that range from $8,000 up to $100,000.
The AWDF provides grants in both small and large amounts and has a special focus on women and marginalised people who may not be able to raise funds from formal investors and institutions.
The AWDF only awards grants to organisations, and not individuals. To apply, an organisation should have been in existence for at least three years.
3) Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program
The $100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) is an annual funding programme targeted at the new generation of African entrepreneurs.
Founded by Mr. Tony Elumelu, the successful Nigerian entrepreneur and philanthropist, the fund seeks to identify and support 1,000 entrepreneurs from across the continent each year over the next decade.
Successful applicants receive world-class business training, mentorship, non-refundable seed capital up to $5,000, and global networking opportunities.
Each successful participant in the program gets an initial seed investment of $5,000 after a mandatory training and mentoring program. Another $5,000, structured as equity or an affordable loan, is also given to participants who meet certain milestones.
Over the next 10 years, the fund expects to support 10,000 start-ups and young businesses selected from across Africa who will ultimately create one million new jobs and add $10 billion in annual revenues to Africa’s economy.
The TEEP Programme is open to entrepreneurs who are citizens or legal residents of any African country. Both new start-ups and existing for-profit young businesses operating in any sector can apply.
The $5,000 provided by TEEP may be inadequate for your funding needs.
However, the training, mentoring and networking opportunities that come with participating in our program can be very valuable. Several alumni of our program have successfully won the $5,000 prize from TEEP.
4) CDC Group
Founded in 1948, the CDC Group is one of the longest active investors in businesses and projects across the African continent.
The CDC Group is the UK’s Development Finance Institution (DFI) and is wholly owned by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID).
To date, the CDC Group has made investments in 681 businesses in Africa and its portfolio of investments is valued at over £7.1 billion (2021).
It specializes in development finance, emerging market investments, private equity fund investing, microfinance and debt finance.
The CDC Group is focused on impact and growth businesses in several sectors with an emphasis on manufacturing, agribusiness, infrastructure, financial institutions, construction, health, and education sectors.
In November 2013, The CDC Group made an $18.1m investment into Feronia, an agricultural production and processing business focused on palm oil plantations and arable farming in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In 2019, ACWA Power, a top-tier power developer, got $50 million in financing from the CDC group to build the 100 MW Redstone Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project in South Africa.
The CDC Group makes big investments and can provide upwards of $10 million in funding to a single business or project. This is good news if you have a capital-intensive venture.
Because the CDC Group makes large investments, it is very careful about the businesses and projects it chooses to invest in. As a result, your business must have a ‘risk profile’ that is acceptable to the CDC Group if you plan to attract their funding.
Inside our program, you will learn how to identify and mitigate the 7 Critical Risks investors like the CDC typically look for before they decide to invest in a business or project.
By improving their risk profile, several of our students have been able to convince previously difficult investors and raised thousands of $$$ in the process.
5) African Development Foundation (ADF)
The U.S. African Development Foundation (ADF) is an independent U.S. government agency established by Congress to invest directly in African grassroots enterprises and social entrepreneurs.
The ADF focuses its investments on businesses and projects that increase incomes, revenues, and jobs by promoting self-reliance and market-based solutions to poverty.
The Foundation provides funding in the form of grant capital and also supports its grantees with capacity building assistance and opportunities to develop, grow and scale their enterprises.
Currently, the ADF invests in 3 major areas: entrepreneurship and job creation, off-grid renewable energy, and agriculture and food security.
In the last 10 years, the ADF has invested $16 million in 170 SMEs in Nigeria, $15 million in 166 businesses in Kenya, $15 million in Zambia, $12 million in Mali, $10 million in Senegal, and $10 million in Cote D’Ivoire, among other African countries.
The ADF gives grants from as little as $10,000 up to and above $200,000. This can be very valuable ‘free’ funding for businesses that need to start, grow, or expand their operations.
Funding from the ADF is restricted to its focus sectors of entrepreneurship and job creation, off-grid renewable energy, and agriculture and food security.
As a result, it will be difficult to attract funding if your business or project lies outside these areas of interest.
6) Acumen Fund
The Acumen Fund is a non-profit impact investment fund incorporated in 2001 with seed capital from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco Systems Foundation and three individual philanthropists.
The Fund invests in entrepreneurs and businesses across sub-Saharan Africa who have the capability to bring sustainable solutions to big problems.
Specifically, the Acumen Fund invests in two types of businesses.
The first are early-stage companies whose products and services enable the poor to transform their lives. And the second are established, high-potential companies with scalable solutions that deliver social and financial returns.
In addition to funding, the Acumen Fund supports the companies it invests in with the tools, networks, technical assistance and strategic guidance needed to succeed and scale into long-term solutions.
Acumen Fund invested $1.8 million in Sproxil, a startup in Ghana that provides a consumer product verification service to help buyers avoid purchasing counterfeit products.
In 2012, EthioChicken, a major poultry producer in Ethiopia, raised over $1 million from Acumen Fund to expand and scale its business in the country.
In total, companies that have raised funding from the Acumen Fund has gone on to raise over $500 million in additional funding.
The Acumen Fund provides large amounts of ‘patient’ capital (usually above $1 million) to businesses that have solutions or products that can positively impact humanity.
In addition to the funding, you also get valuable non-financial benefits from Acumen’s proprietary tools, networks, technical assistance, and strategic guidance.
The Acumen Fund can be quite picky about the kind of businesses it invests in.
Therefore, to stand out, you need to be really good at understanding the unique value proposition of your business, and be able to pitch yourself, your ideas and your business to the panel of judges.
Some of our students, like Mohamed Qamsa, have successfully learned and applied our pitch techniques to win regional pitch competitions like The Innovate Ventures, and also get featured on the CNN and the BBC.
Photo source: https://www.finnfund.fi/en/investing/investments/africado/
Finnfund is a state-owned development financier that invests in profitable businesses in developing countries. It is owned by the government of Finland and is based in Helsinki.
Every year, FinnFund makes between 20 and 30 new investments worth up to €250 million. At the end of 2020, Finnfund’s investments and commitments were €1.070 trillion in 53 countries.
Yes, that’s over one trillion euros!
Finnfund provides different types of financial investment and support to businesses operating in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This includes equity capital, long-term investment loans, mezzanine financing, and expertise on how to invest in the developing markets.
Africado, Tanzania’s first commercial and international grade producer of avocados, raised €2.5 million from Finnfund in 2007 to expand its business.
In 2016, the developers of the 80MW peat-fired Hakan-Quantum power plant raised $15 million from Finnfund.
Finnfund only invests in developing countries. This focus significantly favours businesses operating in many parts of Africa.
Also, Finnfund can provided long-term funding that doesn’t put pressure on businesses and gives them time and space to grow.
Finnfund only invests in ventures that are commercially viable and can make a profit. As a result, non-profit organisations cannot access funding from Finnfund.
The fund also prefers to focus on critical sectors like clean energy, sustainable forestry, financial services, and agriculture.
8) Leapfrog Investments
LeapFrog Investments is a private investment firm that invests in high-growth companies in emerging markets.
The firm’s investments have an annual growth rate of more than 26% and its companies reach approximately 221 million consumers, primarily in Africa and Asia.
Founded in 2007 by Dr. Andy Kuper on his trademark ‘Profit with Purpose’ philosophy, LeapFrog Investments was ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the top 5 Companies to Change the World, alongside Apple and Novartis.
In 2016, Leapfrog invested $22 million in GoodLife Pharmacy, a retail pharmacy chain in East Africa.
And in 2017, Leapfrog made a major equity investment of $180 million in Enterprise Group, a provider of insurance, life cover and pension products in Ghana.
In addition to the equity investment it provides, Leapfrog also supports its partner companies in the areas of strategy, sales, product pricing, distribution, human resources, and several other key areas.
Leapfrog only invests in financial services and healthcare companies with a focus on insurance, pensions, finance and banking sectors, and diagnostics, pharmaceutical, and medical products fields.
9) Y Combinator
Y Combinator is an American seed accelerator that was launched in March 2005 and has consistently ranks as one of the top business accelerators in the world.
In its main program, Y Combinator interviews and selects two or more batches of companies per year, from more than 12 countries around the world. The selected companies receive funding, advice, and connections in exchange.
As of 2020, Y Combinator had invested in over 1,650 companies including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, Reddit, Optimizely, Zenefits, Docker, DoorDash, Mixpanel, and Heroku.
Currently, the combined valuation of YC companies stand at over $80 billion.
In Africa, Y Combinator is investing in a growing number of promising startups.
Y Combinator doesn’t just provide funding to startups. It also provides very valuable opportunities through training, networking and introduction to strategic partners and potential investors.
For example, Paystack, a Nigerian alumnus startup of the Y Combinator program, was acquired for $200 million by investors in 2020.
Y Combinator typically only focuses on technology or tech-enabled businesses. Also, getting into Y Combinator is a very competitive and selective process.
Inside our program, you will learn how to package and position your business in a way that improves your chances of catching the eyes of very selective platforms like Y Combinator.
10) The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund
The Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF) is a public-private partnership funded by the governments of the UK, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and a number of private banks.
The purpose of the EAIF is to lend to businesses that create, improve or expand infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. The Fund lends to infrastructure projects mainly owned, managed, and operated by private sector businesses.
The EAIF funds projects that are either wholly-owned in Africa, joint ventures businesses, or international businesses expanding into Africa or entering African markets for the first time.
As of 2018, the total capital of the fund was over US$1 trillion.
Some examples of key projects funded by the EAIF are: the $35m loan to Indorama in Nigeria for the construction of a fertilizer plant; a $21.6m facility to Kigali Water for the construction of a bulk water production facility in Rwanda; and a $17.2m loan to Akuo Kita, for the construction of a 50MW solar PV power plant in Mali.
The EAIF is a specialist fund that mostly invests in infrastructure projects in Africa, and can provide very large amounts of funding (in the multi-millions of dollars).
The only significant downside to this funding source is its preference for large projects and debt funding.
Raise Up to $1 Million for Your Business
Are you looking to raise between $10,000 and $1 million (or more) for your business, project or non-profit?
Have you been trying to raise money on your own without much success?
We can help you overcome this problem, so you can finally raise enough money to start, grow, or turn around that business.
The 10 funding sources in this article are culled from our Investor Catalog of over 100 vetted investors, financiers and funding organisations that invest in businesses across Africa.
Since 2015, members and alumni of our program have used creative strategies to raise over $5 million in grants, equity, and debt funding for different types of businesses and projects.
And we can do the same for you, if you’re willing to learn and apply the strategies we’re going to show you.
But first, we need to know if your business or project qualifies for funding.
Don’t procrastinate. This will take less than 2 minutes.
See you inside. 🕥