Econ-Tourism Trips: Where Indiana Jones Meets Warren Buffett
By Laura Davis | Tue Apr 02 2019
Over the years, I have hosted hundreds of investors in Ethiopia. One would think it could get monotonous, but it never does. More and more, high-net-worth individuals and families are signing up to become impact investors and choosing this as a more sustainable strategy for creating impact in Africa over more traditional charity models. Our role is to help them make good decisions and to oversee their investments on the ground. Our strategy is to find, vet and present the best small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa to our growing network of global change agents, called the Impact Angel Network (IAN). Each investor has a fascinating "journey of impact" that brings them to consider the idea of investing in Africa's future. It's amazing to hear their personal stories as we walk through factories, hear pitches from women-led companies, sit with employees of companies our investors have backed, and drive around the bustling cities of Addis and Kampala.
Many trip participants have "aha" moments during these visits and take another step forward in developing a new framework around Africa's economic potential for financial returns and social impact. For me, each trip we host and every story I hear brings me back to the moment I realized the future we must be part of on the continent of Africa is building the private sector. Having investors in town also provides a concentrated time for me to have my own "aha" moments over and over again. The private sector needs to keep pace with the millions of youth that are entering the workforce each year. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of the population is under the age of 25, and around 15 to 20 million well-educated young people are expected to join the workforce every year for the next three decades (World Economic Forum, 2017). The private sector needs to grow, and grow fast, and everyone needs to take part in making this happen or all of our efforts will be swept away with rising unemployment rates. But to watch hundreds of workers making things like yogurt, bread, shoelaces, toothpicks, tee-shirts, juice...I have hope. One business at a time, we can create thousands of jobs and a thriving economy.
And there is an exciting upside to this story. By 2025, it is projected that almost two-thirds of the 303 million households in Africa will have discretionary income, an addition of almost 90 million consumers in a decade. This growth is expected to push Africa’s GDP growth from 4.9% to 6.2% in the next 10 years, outpacing the global GDP rate of 3.7% (McKinsey, 2015). Smart investors are seeing the "Made in Africa" brand as the next big thing. Indigenous companies, industrious entrepreneurs, creating products with features that appeal to their domestic markets at a price-point that works with the economy; that's a great opportunity. This both gives me hope and gets me excited as an impact investor.
As I walk around the companies we have invested in - I am proud to say I have backed ten companies here in Ethiopia - it's with great pride that I observe the women our companies are employing and know that each one likely supports multiple people in her household and that their living conditions are improving. She's hopefully having better access to clean water, healthcare and education because she has a job.
We recently had several members of the Impact Angel Network in Addis Ababa and the time was full of good conversations and observations. During the Econ-Tourism Trip, we saw 4 portfolio and 9 pipeline companies. My partner and husband, Matthew Davis, then took several of them on to Uganda where they spent a day meeting several more companies we are considering for investment.
Africa's private sector is the future. We all need to get behind it and play a role in supporting local companies grow into big ones and create millions of jobs to absorb the youth that will be entering the workforce. I encourage you all to come see what is happening here in Africa. Think different. See the future. Grow a company, build a nation and leave a legacy. This is the mission statement of the Impact Angel Network. If you are on a journey to witness firsthand and potentially invest in Africa's economic potential, we invite you to join us in Ethiopia for the next Econ-Tourism Trip October 27 - November 2, 2019.
**Please note: Specific investment opportunities are made available only to “accredited investors” after completing the Impact Angel Network registration and onboarding process and following a waiting period.
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.