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From Brazil to Ethiopia

By Renata Makhoul | Mon Oct 02 2017
When you move to a country like Ethiopia, one of the first questions people ask is “where are you from?” and when I reply that I am from Brazil, I usually get a mixture of positive and curious reactions which allows me to engage with people and to start a conversation.
In my pursuit to work closer to impact investments since I finished my master’s degree, I decided, together with my boyfriend, to look for opportunities in East Africa, in which both of us hoped to find experiences that would change our lives.
Before we decided to move to Ethiopia, my boyfriend was already in country working for a mission, and on a short trip to Lalibela, he met with a young man named Sebastiaan Howle who was finishing a summer internship at an impact investing firm based in Addis Ababa: RENEW.
A few minutes later, my boyfriend sent me an e-mail to look into RENEW. That’s when it all started. I was back in Brazil, working for an accelerator for social impact businesses but I wanted to know more about this part of the world, experience the challenges and learn about doing business here. I found a lot on RENEW’s website, blog posts, podcasts, and the impact report, to understand more about the company, but mostly to learn about Ethiopia’s business environment. 
I was fascinated with the type of businesses that made up the portfolio companies. This was when I first read about a company exporting fresh injera to the U.S., for example. For most people in Brazil, and I would say even South America in general, this part of the world seems so distant, so different, but what I discovered is that there are a lot of lessons and experiences to be shared. Like Ethiopia, Brazil is also a country majorly focused on agribusiness, exporting coffee, a country of creative and entrepreneurial people, of family businesses developing into larger companies. In fact, I believe there are many lessons to be learned, and I recognize how my professional background coming from an emerging market helped me to navigate in the ecosystem here. But I’ve also learned so much with the entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, with their passion and persistence to achieve their vision, the commitment with employees and the community. 
I am glad that I pursued my goal to work with impact investing in Africa and I am lucky that a random encounter in Lalibela made me aware of RENEW.
I will continue to follow my goals persistently and endure in the journey of achieving them and I hope to get a little bit of luck along the way too.
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.

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