Introducing Our New Cohort 2022

By Till Wahnbaeck
February 28, 2022

In January, the Impacc team met in Kilifi, one of the poorest and yet most beautiful regions of Kenya, for our annual strategy offsite. The location was also chosen because it is home to Coco Vita, the latest addition to our new cohort. Coco Vita is the perfect example of the kind of company we want to promote, with an exciting start-up story, a killer product and lots of potential to create massive jobs in areas of extreme poverty. A good 10 years ago, Joan Atambo (pictured below) was still a well-paid financial manager in Mombasa; then her mother fell ill with an autoimmune disease. A proven remedy for this is extra virgin coconut oil – it is known for its antibacterial and antifungal properties and contains more lauric acid than breast milk (I may have dropped chemistry in tenth grade, but I was assured this is a good thing). Kenya grows around 300 million coconuts a year – but Joan had to import the oil for her mother from Australia because she couldn’t find any in Kenya. After her mother recovered, Joan turned her experience into a business. Ten years later, Coco Vita is now the only producer of pure, cold-pressed coconut oil in the region. At times over thirty women grate, press and filter for a month until the oil is ready – all in a manual process in an area with no running water, no electricity and no roads. Joan’s vision to increase her production tenfold and thus provide income opportunities for over 5,000 small farmers convinced us. With an investment of about 100,000 euros, she can connect the company to the electricity grid, carefully mechanise to simplify the work processes, for example in grating, and cool and process the perishable coconut water instead of disposing of it as before.

I could tell stories like Coco Vita’s about all our new ventures, but then the newsletter would get too long. So here’s a quick overview of who else we’ve added to the new cohort. The regional focus this year was on Kenya, where we have our largest office and can be close to the companies and their markets.


Full Spoon distributes peanut butter in slums and thus prevents malnutrition. The product is good, but just normal peanut butter. The – small but decisive – innovation: instead of selling in jars, which most slum dwellers cannot afford, Full Spoon uses individual sachets that are enough for half a loaf of bread. This is not ecologically perfect, but it creates new markets for healthy food: peanuts contain about 50% protein and are thus a much more nutritious alternative than the typical breakfast – a fried doughnut and a cup of black tea. And the product is catching on: when we actually only wanted to conduct market research interviews in the Kibera slum of Nairobi in December, 7 out of 10 kiosk owners bought sachets from us because they immediately recognised the market potential. With our investment, Full Spoon (see their production facilities below) wants to build up a new distribution structure in the so-called Kadogo economy (after “kidogo” – “small”), which can sell very small sachets profitably.
ACT (Africa Collect Textiles) does textile recycling and upcycling in Kenya and Nigeria. There are legions of uniformed “guards” in almost every African city. I had never wondered what actually happens to the old uniforms. Well, they are thrown away so that no one can falsely claim to be a “Guard”. ACT gives these uniforms a second life, for example as school uniforms; what cannot be reused is woven into carpets made of denim, for example.


M-Shamba provides fair market access for small farmers and helps to avoid famine. In many parts of Africa, there are so-called micro-famines: rich harvests in one part of the country, drought and crop failures in the neighbouring one – and no functioning market to compensate for this. M-Shamba creates transparency with a simple technical solution and provides smallholders with market access. The university spin-off of Calvince Okello was originally launched as an app – just as everything today somehow has to be an app in order to appear attractive. The problem: very few smallholder farmers have smartphones. So M-Shamba launched a simpler, SMS-based solution. The problem here: many mobile phone contracts have a limit of 20 SMS per week, and 15 of them already came from the mobile phone provider itself. So M-Shamba went one step deeper and today has a kind of automated call centre that offers voice-based information and also training. For us, this is a great example of entrepreneurship, experimenting until the product really fits the needs of the market, and is already used by tens of thousands of customers. With our investment, M-Shamba wants to expand into other African countries. 


Marbi Agric is also creating fair market access for smallholder farmers, but here with a smart solution that pre-finances seeds (a common model) but combines it with insurance policies that minimise the risk in case of defaults. Founder Bernadette Mwanza (below with Anne Lawi at our office) comes from the insurance industry and is now putting her experience to work for poor smallholder farmers.

All these companies have something in common: great female entrepreneurs (ok, two men are also there, but they are clearly outnumbered), clever, green business ideas in areas of extreme poverty, first entrepreneurial successes – and: no money. They are too entrepreneurial for aid projects and they aren’t profitable enough for classic investors, because they spend all their money on decent wages. And that’s where we come in. And thus we have set out to raise one million euros in investment donations this year, so that all these good ideas really do translate into sustainable jobs.

About Till Wahnbaeck

Till Wahnbaeck
Ex-CEO of Welthungerhilfe and private sector General Manager, champion of innovation. Till ran both for profit companies and a global NGO and has always strived to bridge the gap between the social and the private sector. As global CEO of Welthungerhilfe (a German food- and nutrition-security NGO with 2,500 staff in 40 countries and a budget of 250mio$), he championed innovation and impact. Previously, as Marketing, Sales and Innovation Director for consumer goods company, Procter & Gamble, he built innovation methods and processes to rejuvenate P&G’s global salon portfolio.

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