RENEW Strategies

Impact Angels Uniting

alt text
Matthew Davis, CFA
| June 23, 2013

It's 6:30am on a humid morning in Dallas, Texas. We’re crisscrossing though the streets of this beautiful city in search of a hip breakfast spot where we’re scheduled to meet a group of potential investors, friends and curious guests for breakfast. They are coming to hear a very different story about Africa. The table fills up with business executives, college students, young professionals and savvy connectors. After some formalities and a few rounds of coffee, we start: “We are not here to talk about giving money, poverty, problems in Africa or microfinance. I’m a capitalist. I believe in profit-making business, and that’s what I am here to talk about. RENEW is creating a new path for the West to engage with Africa. The services we provide are not for everyone. The investments we do are risky. And we are selective about who we work with.”

After 20 minutes we finish, and the questions start flowing in with far more excitement than doubt: “What types of sectors are you looking at?” “How do you structure your investments?” “How do you form an angel group?” “When’s your next trip?” “Do you offer internship opportunities?” America is tired of the old Africa story. They are hungry for someone to tactically explain how they can invest in the fastest growing economies in the world.

This was just one story. In May and June the RENEW team had many of these meetings, with similar outcomes in each city: “We want to start an impact angel group.” We had meetings in Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, DC and Georgia - in total 25 meetings with 38 impact angels, eight investment partners, and one fund. In cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, impact angel groups meet on a regular basis to pore over financial statements, negotiate terms with entrepreneurs and plan their next investment trip to Ethiopia. Across the United States impact angel groups are forming to take up ethical capitalism - impact investing - in Africa. The groups are being started by successful executives and entrepreneurs that know how to start, grow and run companies. They will be making direct investments into small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in East Africa with the goal of building market-leading firms, creating jobs, and getting good returns. I liken it to Warren Buffet meets Indian Jones.

There is something refreshing and satisfying in the voices of the people as they leave our breakfast meeting, as if we have realigned something in their minds: they can finally talk about ‘investing’ and ‘Africa’ in the same sentence and feel good about it. Some of these guests have traveled to Africa on mission trips and safaris, quietly wondering how they could use their real talents to do more than build schools or give two-day training seminars. And now, they have an answer.

At RENEW, we are not doing anything special or innovative. We are simply doing what China, India and many other countries are doing in Africa: getting in on the ground and doing business. And doing it with a steel ethical backbone. Ethical capitalism - it will always triumph. Our impact angels have a front-row seat to Africa’s industrialization, and they are architecting a new way for the U.S. to participate in Africa’s changing story.

This week we are hosting an impact angel group from the U.S. here in Ethiopia, with another group coming in July. In August and September, members of the RENEW team will be back in the U.S. holding events in Texas and along the East Coast. If you are interested in joining or forming an impact angel group, or attending one of our events, please contact Kathleen DeLaHoussaye at kdelahoussaye@renewstrategies.com.

Contact us at renew@renewstrategies.com or follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC to find out more.