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My Journey to RENEW Through the Busy Streets of Addis

By Erin O'Connor | Tue May 30 2017
"Erin.... we are hoping that you are available to come to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from about May 1...." 
As I read this email early one morning, I knew my work life was about to get flipped completely around. It’s not every day that a new job asks you to take a transatlantic flight to Sub-Saharan Africa on your first day of work…
Joining the RENEW team was a no-brainer for me. I was on the hunt for a company where my ideals and values would line up. A company that I could get behind and one that I could feel good about contributing to at the end of the day. Coming from a background in the investment field, I had heard of impact investing, and knew that if I was to stay in this industry, that was where I needed to be. Working at a small company taught me how to wear several different hats, but it also taught me where my strengths truly lie and what I value most in this field: using investments for the greater good. Right from the first conversation I had with RENEW, I could see my values and skills lining up with the company and position.
Which brings me to about four weeks ago, where on day two of work, I landed at Bole International Airport; bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and bag-less. As I drove through the city of Addis Ababa to The Exchange (our office in Addis Ababa), the sites around me were overwhelming. I had never seen so much traffic and so many people all trying to vie for the right of way. Rush hour in the city felt disorganized and hectic. After a good 30-minute drive, I finally made it to The Exchange and was greeted by a friendly team and positive work environment. A small hidden gem tucked inside a coffee warehouse down a dirt road in the heart of the city.
Right from day one of work, I could tell this position would be fast-paced and right up my alley. One common theme that kept popping in my head over the two weeks I spent in Ethiopia, was something Matt and Laura told me in my interview. They said they’re a hard-working group, but at the end of the day, their company is like one big family. Over the two weeks in Addis, I saw that adage really come to light, and I saw first-hand that they live and breathe that. I also experienced the passion that was behind RENEW, and saw that the team truly stood behind and embodied the company’s values: "we are loyal and welcome the challenge of being trailblazers".
While in Addis, I also had the chance to visit a few of our projects. To hear and see first-hand what impact our investments have, and to meet the people behind the portfolio, was truly eye-opening. Learning about where these companies started, versus where they were today because of the equity investments by the IAN, was a testament to the work being done by RENEW and the impact being created.
Over the next two weeks, Addis eventually became less about the busyness and felt more and more like everyday life. The people were friendly and helpful and the city was alive and exciting. I woke up to the sound of morning prayers and church bells every morning; which on day 2, I was convinced my co-worker was blasting music at 5 AM. It made it hard to sleep, but you could feel how alive with energy the city was at the same time.
Being able to see our investments, the country, and the circumstances that surround them, gave me such a strong grounding and understanding of what we're offering. Not only are we trying to create huge social impacts, but we're working with the community to move it forward, and ultimately, provide good financial returns to our angel investors.
One month in, and I’m still getting my feet wet, but I can already tell this is somewhere I want to make a splash.
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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