This is a guest blog by Jeff and Donna Turi who are members of the Impact Angel Network (IAN) and proud investors in many of the IAN’s portfolio companies.
“Wait a minute, why is the traffic moving so smoothly?” That was our initial reaction to landing back in Addis Ababa for our second Econ/Tourism trip.
We initially visited Matt and Laura in Addis in November of 2013. At that time, the roads were completely torn up because the light rail system was under construction. That project seemed to characterize so much of Africa – the promise of greater things just over the horizon. The theme of Africa Rising has been a long narrative yet the future always seemed to continually move beyond reach.
We were pleasantly surprised during our second trip to Addis in February of 2017 to see that the light rail system was completed and that tens of thousands of people a day had an easier commute to work. Perhaps, just perhaps, the promise of the future was now at hand. We sure hope that is the case and it serves as a reminder of why impact investing in Ethiopia is so important to us.
Since our first visit in 2013, we have invested in 6 different companies with the RENEW team. We were able to meet several of the entrepreneurs during our first visit. At that time, Matt and Laura were the whole team and worked out of a small office near the airport. While it was one of their initial econ-tourism trips and the logistics were quite challenging, we, nonetheless, we were able to see 10 different companies and meet with key business leaders. At that time, we were incredibly impressed by the dynamism of the city and great spirit of the people.
Fast forward 3 years and some things have changed while others have stayed the same. Matt and Laura now have a talented and professional staff of 8 in the country and operate out of a modern office space. We found that many of the issues discussed on the calls make more sense when you hear the recurring theme directly from the business owners. The lack of access to foreign exchange became very evident when we heard the tangible impact it was having on supply chains for our companies.
During this trip, the logistics were much easier as we visited both portfolio companies and new potential investments. It was great to see how our investments were helping to make a big difference. For example, when we first met the team from Mama Fresh they were operating out of basic warehousing made from corrugated metal supported on a stick frame. They used our angel investment to upgrade to a modern building and now have their ISO quality system in place. One aspect that did not change in the past three years is the dynamic growth of the city (new buildings everywhere) and the terrific spirit of the business people. Everywhere we went our group was impressed by the hard work and new ideas being pursued.
Note: left photo is from Jeff and Donna's recent visit. Center and right top photos are from earlier visits.
We highly encourage everyone interested in impact investing to take the trip to Ethiopia. It’s very eye-opening, educational and uplifting to see the country’s terrific future unfolding before your eyes.
The RENEW team will be hosting another Econ-Tourism trip from September 13 to 20, 2017. If you are interested in participating or have any questions regarding Econ-Tourism trips or the IAN in general, then please feel free to reach out.
To find out more about RENEW or the Impact Angel Network, contact us at email@example.com, follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC or find us on Instagram @impactangelnetwork.