407 is my lucky number right now. 407 jobs have been created by our Ventures since the beginning of the year, and I can’t tell you how happy I am about that. When we founded Impacc at the end of 2019, we had the idea of investing in sub-Saharan startups so they could create jobs on their own and help people out of poverty. Then we worked on raising funds, building a team, finding the right companies, supporting them. All of that is important, but it’s only a means to an end. Now we see that the math is starting to add up, and that’s a great experience. Still, we shouldn’t brag about this too much, as there is a long way to go: We don’t know how many of these jobs will still exist in six months (that’s one of our criteria for a “good job”), we can’t yet accurately assess whether we’re really reaching the poorest of the poor with these jobs. We are committed to rigorous impact measurement, and we have not yet fully lived up to that standard this year. But still, I think we can celebrate the milestone of 407 jobs. Not for us, but for the ventures we support. After all, we don’t create these jobs, the entrepreneurs in the African countries do.
Marbi Agric, with their credit-financed seeds for smallholder farmers, is a great example of how our support works. I mentioned in one of the last newsletters that we were supporting the start-up with a loan of 50,000 euros, which we will convert into an equity investment in the fall. Already in April, Marbi was able to use the money and expand their activities in western Kenya. The result: 67 direct jobs (for permanent sales staff) and 159 indirect jobs (for savings group coordinators) in April alone, and 60 new ones have been added since then. We measure our return not in euros, but in jobs. I can hardly imagine a better return than that of our investment in Marbi Agric.
And so it shall continue: In early August, we reached an agreement with Gjenge Makers and will invest a good 90,000 euros in the company. The tool is a convertible bond (that is, the money is flowing now and will be converted into an investment at the next capital increase); we have already transferred the first tranche of 30,000 euros so that founder Nzambi Matee can use it to expand her production and enter the lucrative market of bricks – at the moment she only produces paving stones. I’m curious to see how many new jobs she can create with this.
And last but not least, we have reserved 50,000 euros to support Africa Collect Textile (ACT). The textile upcycling company, which produces backpacks and bags from old uniforms, for example, urgently needs a shredder so that it can enter the business of filling materials. Not as nice and not as attractive as their backpacks, but the best way to recycle tons and tons of textile waste and displace filler material made of plastic… and create jobs.
The recycled backpack from ACT prevents the burning of textiles
But we don’t just give money. Much of our work is in what we call “venture building,” or helping firms grow. One area that is always in demand is brand management, communication and branding. We have probably the most renowned German design agency, the Peter Schmidt Group, on board as a pro bono partner to work for our ventures if they want to (and usually they do). The latest result is what I consider some terrific rebranding of the WashKing brand (which produces organic toilets for slums in Ghana). The new brand – created on the ground in Ghana when the international PSG team was in Accra – makes toilets attractive, and more importantly, makes WashKing an attractive employer. It is not easy to find employees to sell toilets in slums. With such a strong brand as WashKing now has, however, it becomes decisively easier.
The next project we just agreed on is a “rebranding” of ACT to position it as a lifestyle AND B2B brand. An exciting balancing act that I’m sure the Africa Collect Textile team will do well with the Peter Schmidt Group. We will report back.
And with that, back to work and have a good rest of the summer,
Till and the Impacc team.
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