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Renew Capital has a presence in 14 African countries. We aim to provide insight into Africa's startup scene, along with the opportunities and challenges it presents through a series of blogs from our in-country team. If you share our passion for developing entrepreneurship in Africa, we invite you to check out our open roles

How a Passion for Sustainability and Investing in Africa led Lucas Robinson to Renew Capital

By Lucas Robinson | Mon Apr 29 2024
Welcome to the 'Journey to Renew Capital' Q&A featuring Lucas Robinson, Renew Capital’s principal of consulting, currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. Lucas has previously lived and invested in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. With extensive experience in international development and entrepreneurship, Lucas is passionate about sustainability and brings this passion to our projects and investments. In our conversation, we explored his thoughts on the transformative potential of investing in Africa, as well as his vision for the future of African ventures.
From left to right: Mikael Gånge (Roam), Hanif Pabani (Global Affairs Canada), Christopher Thornley (Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya), Lucas Robinson, Esther Mwikali.
Thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. We're eager to learn more about you. Please share something about yourself with our readers.
Where to begin? I was born and raised outside Ottawa, Canada. My first job was delivering newspapers to my neighbors on Wednesday evenings after school when I was 12. The “Manotick Messenger.” Everything else kind of follows from there.
You've navigated through various roles in your career, showcasing a diverse set of skills and experiences. Despite this diversity, is there a common thread that ties your professional journey together?
Yes, my friends often make fun of my LinkedIn page. I think sustainability is a strong theme in my work and something that has been coming from different angles for a long time. 
How does sustainability feature - practically speaking - in the work that you do now, with your team at Renew Capital?
It’s a critically important theme for us. We’ve done several trainings on this theme for companies from across the continent. We’ve also recently integrated sustainability metrics into our investment contracts; as far as I know, we’re one of the only venture capital firms in Africa that actively encourages investees to reduce the accrued interest of our investment by helping them to measure and meaningfully reduce their environmental impact. We’ve done the same on gender metrics - which is also awesome! 
Given your extensive experience spanning over 20 years in investing in and managing businesses and projects in frontier markets, how has this influenced your belief in the transformative potential of investment in Africa?
Yeah, I guess you could say I’m a believer. Partly born out of the frustration I felt in the early part of my career in the international development space. I think there are some great people in that industry, and I think that there have been some really important wins that too often get overlooked by folks, but on balance, it wasn’t right for me. I wanted to have a different kind of impact, and I could see that the private sector was playing a really important role in this regard. 
So I started building and investing in startups on the continent. Some have done well, leading to hundreds of jobs, a reasonable financial return and lasting positive environmental impact. Others less so. That’s the nature of these things. 
Looking ahead, what aspirations or goals do you have for your continued involvement in African ventures and how do you envision contributing to their growth and development in the future?
Renew Capital has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to meet hundreds of entrepreneurs from across the continent and in some cases to see their companies take off. I’m really happy playing a small part in that, as part of our internal Investment Committee and as one of the many people that’s working to build our entrepreneur training programs. It’s really rewarding work, and I look forward to continuing with that in even more countries as we work to expand our company footprint across the continent. 
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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