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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants   

By Calvin Chitangala | Mon Mar 20 2023
Love, G.R.I.T. and Ikigai: Calvin’s Journey to Renew Capital in Zambia 
Calvin Chitangala joined Renew Capital as an investment and project manager and our first staff member in Zambia. In honor of women’s month, Calvin shares how his journey has been shaped by the powerful influence of the women in his life and by G.R.I.T: Guts, Resiliency, Intensity, Tenacity and Teamwork. 
A Legacy of Love  
Calvin and his Mayo
I grew up in Zambia, surrounded by love, friendships and community—influenced primarily by the women in my life, especially my grandmother and mother. My grandmother’s home was the best place in the world. Together with my many cousins, we shared the warmest hugs, the deepest stories, wholesome meals and an ambition to be great. We nicknamed my grandmother Mayo which means “mother” in Bemba, a Zambian language. 
Mayo told us stories of how she migrated from her village in northern Zambia to the capital city of Lusaka and began to build a solid foundation for her family. My mother followed in her footsteps and similarly decided to shift much of her life to the United States to earn a living and provide for my sister and me. Mayo and my mother both built a great legacy, and growing up I had an opportunity to have a front-row seat to lessons of love, selflessness and grit. 
Growing with G.R.I.T: Guts, Resiliency, Intensity, Tenacity and  Teamwork
Breaking bread as the sun set, on the top of Lion's Head
I am and have been intrinsically motivated to show up as the best version of myself, tapping into the values of G.R.I.T and faith picked up from my life experiences and the women in my life. I remember how critical these values were as I reached one of my cherished personal achievements which was making my way up Lion’s Head mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. I almost threw in the towel mid-way up the mountain when a group of colleagues reminded me that though talent wins games, it is team spirit and faith that wins championships and gets you to the top of the mountain, and back down safely. 
From my childhood two-plus-hours bus commute to and from school; to sleepless nights at university; to career climbs and the Renew Capital application and vetting process, I have been moved by G.R.I.T and faith towards my ikigai. 
Finding Ikigai: My Passion 
I first dipped my toes into the impact investing world through an internship at GroFin Zambia, an impact investment firm, during my third-year study of economics at the University of Zambia. It was my first due diligence experience, a social and environmental impact assessment, that allowed me to see firsthand how setting up a milling plant in the rural part of Mumbwa (150 km from the capital city), transformed the socio-economic well-being of rural households below the poverty line and still achieved financial viability for the Grofin impact investors. 
Calvin having an exchange of knowledge with smallholder farmers
After graduation, I connected with a group of friends and mentors, and together, we embarked on a three-year “entrepreneurial” journey to build the impact investing ecosystem in Zambia driven by the philosophies of impact investing. There was a lot of selfless work to do, again G.R.I.T was required. In 2018–19, we launched the task force for the National Advisory Board for Impact Investing (NABII) Zambia. In 2019–20 (NABII) Zambia was set up with the support of Prospero Zambia and partners.   
The Taskforce for the National Advisory Board for Impact Investing (NABII) Zambia
From rural Mumbwa to the boardrooms, this advocacy duty gave me great satisfaction. Themed by lots of learning and bootstrapping, I found it fulfilling to help create an enabling environment to support underprivileged and underserved communities through investments. One can only imagine how delighted I was, when, in 2018 I had the opportunity to serve at the Development Bank of Zambia where we attempted to deliver on the philosophies of impact investments. My last ‘ikigai moment’ prior to joining Renew Capital, was an opportunity to coordinate a team and showcase Zambia’s impact investing pipeline potential to solid institutional impact investors (largely VCs and DFIs)—from an agribusiness investment opportunity providing a market for smallholder farmers, to million-dollar renewable energy investments to address the energy deficit in Zambia.
When I saw that Renew Capital was looking for a trailblazer to help grow the firm's presence in Zambia, I thought to myself, oh boy, the stars are aligned. I immediately dusted up my CV and felt this is it, I can now connect the dots looking backward to the first time I dipped my toes into the world of impact investments. And after a four-month rigorous recruitment process, demanding the best version of myself, I was delighted to receive an invite to join the Renew Capital team for onboarding in Kigali. 
Renew Capital onboarding in Kigali
Renew Capital emphasizes that we seek to change how the world engages Africa, from a place of giving to a place of investing – this puts a fire in my belly! I am excited to continue advocating for people and the planet; demonstrating that investment capital can both do good and do well, and demystifying the world of impact investments for entrepreneurs. 
In hindsight, I am thankful to the giants in my life like my grandmother, mother, and my career mentors,  who have allowed me to stand on their shoulders and see further. Having G.R.I.T has been critical as I decided to take on a trailblazing opportunity with Renew Capital and to be the team’s first boots on the ground here in Zambia. Joining Renew Capital has been invaluable because I consider it a rare opportunity to continue to serve in my line of passion—impact investing—now, through a venture capital lens, and with renewed vigor.
Renew Capital in  Zambia 
Zambia is a land of peace and love, with a people of G.R.I.T and faith, and a fairly predictable economy. I am excited to market Zambia’s potential to the world, especially at a time when the macro-economics and governance structures have demonstrated resilience—beyond the Covid economic recession and the 2021 general and presidential elections—and when financial sector regulators are proactively creating a favorable environment to incentivize foreign direct investments. Zambia is budding with impact investment opportunities using technology to solve the needs of the mass markets in Zambia and the region.
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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