Over the past decade, Renew Capital has been working in partnership with the development and investment communities to design, test and scale blended finance mechanisms and innovations to grow Ethiopia’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) ecosystem in the areas of job creation, investment facilitation and gender equality. Now, a seven-year partnership with funding from the Government of Canada will help Renew Capital build on that success and expand this model across East Africa to support the shared priority for inclusive, sustainable economic growth across the continent.
“Canada’s support for this project demonstrates our commitment to supporting innovative initiatives that build a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient Africa. We will continue to work with our partners to contribute to the region’s efforts to create a more prosperous Africa and a better future for its people,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada.
The Accelerating Regional Business Growth (ARBG) program aims to promote regional economic integration, provide wrap-around technical assistance training and support, leverage private capital into the space and promote cross-cutting themes of gender equality and environmental sustainability. The program uses both a bottom-up approach, which prioritizes investment and training to help create a cadre of gender- and environment-smart SMEs, as well as a top-down approach, which escalates SMEs’ concerns through advocacy for policy reform.
By the end of its seven-year duration, ARBG will operate in seven cities: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Kigali, Rwanda; Kampala, Uganda; Nairobi, Kenya, Lusaka, Zambia; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Khartoum, Sudan. In addition, ARBG seeks to create 12,000 jobs, at least 50% of which are for women; facilitate $175M CAD of private capital into SMEs; facilitate $125M CAD in regional trade; and support 150 SMEs to increase the representation of women in their workforce and leadership.
Thousands of executives and managers will receive gender-smart training on topics including the private investment process, regional trade readiness, executive business management and finance. The goal is to support businesses throughout their journey, both as they raise funds and then as they utilize that capital to grow their companies.
“The ultimate outcome is a growing, more resilient and gender-responsive local SME sector contributing to regional trade, decent jobs and women’s economic empowerment in Africa,” said Renew Capital Founder and CEO Matt Davis.
With this agreement, Renew Capital will also be adding research and training around trade to its mission. It comes shortly after the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
“We see tremendous potential to increase trade between African countries, driven by investments in small and medium-sized firms that are the bedrock of these economies,” added Renew Capital Angels Member and Director of Regional Private Sector Projects of Renew Capital Lucas Robinson. “The companies that we’re working with are investing in new technologies and hiring talent to drive growth. It’s inspiring to work alongside them.”
The ARBG program will serve as a launching point for Renew Capital’s ambitious plan to expand its investment network to half of Africa’s 54 countries by 2027.
“Africa is ripe with thriving SMEs, but entrepreneurs continue to face challenges accessing capital,” said Renew Capital Senior Investment Manager Njuguna Diana. “The ARBG program is promising as it provides a platform to help entrepreneurs navigate these challenges through the different training programs coupled with the advocacy work with stakeholders such as governments.”
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