RENEW Strategies

COVID-19, Bright Spots in RENEW’s Portfolio

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Laura Davis
| April 7, 2020


We hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe in these turbulent times. Here in Ethiopia, as of noon on April 7, 2020, there have been 42 cases of COVID-19 and 2 deaths. Nearby, Uganda is reporting 52 cases with 0 deaths. Some have questioned these numbers, but my opinion is that the governments of Ethiopia and Uganda are doing remarkably well in responding to the pandemic with limited resources.

Matthew, Brooklyn, our 18-month-old daughter, and I remain in Ethiopia, where we plan to stay for the foreseeable future to continue our work supporting our portfolio and helping East Africa’s private sector weather this storm and recover fast. Here in Addis, our office remains open until the government tells us to shut down or until our team votes to close. We are implementing strict COVID-19 protocols and have moved all in-person meetings to phone and internet meetings. We have also been active with sharing best practices with our pipeline and portfolio companies and have also gone steps beyond that to equip our neighbors with tools and equipment to help curb the spread of COVID-19. In North America, Uganda and abroad, our team is working virtually as most normally do, so the impact on our day to day work culture has been minimal.

We have been able to continue supporting our portfolio companies and encouraging our team and our companies to use this crisis as an opportunity to get creative. We believe local companies in Africa may be hit harder by local and global instability than companies in developed countries. Supply chains and financing mechanisms are disrupted, and in some cases, entire markets have dried up. We are determined to play our part in not letting the economy lose a decade of progress.

We are working on response efforts on many fronts, including running virtual training sessions with companies, acting as extra hands for management, lining up resources to address operational disruptions, leading major marketing initiatives, and helping restructure their financing to free up cash so they can weather (even thrive) during these uncertain times. This week we are running a session on contingency planning (both for COVID and the upcoming election). Let us know if you are interested in receiving a syllabus of the training, entitled “Contingency Planning: What is Your Plan B?” by emailing renew@renestrategies.com.

Here are some bright spots that are happening with our portfolio companies that go beyond their core business to help their customers during this unprecedented time:

  • EAES | Tebita - Our team has launched a program that will allow U.S. Ethiopian Diaspora to pay for 24-hour peace of mind emergency response services for their loved ones via Tebita Ambulance and East Africa Emergency Services. The service includes on-demand ambulance services, home health check-ins (contactless unless otherwise dictated) and critical food delivery services for those who need to stay home because of old age or compromised immune systems. Visit https://www.eastafricaems.com/peace-of-mind-services.html to learn more or subscribe.
    • RoadRunner | Deliver Addis - The company is working hard to respond to the surge in demand, and the RENEW team is assisting with marketing, relationships, etc. to increase their capacity. You can even get a reusable cloth mask as part of the company's grocery marketplace! We hope this helps consumers get access to critical food and also minimizes the risks of the virus spreading. If you are in Addis, visit https://deliveraddis.com/ to order food, groceries, alcohol or flowers for delivery!
      • dVentus - We are working with the engineers from dVentus to explore developing a ventilator prototype for Ethiopia. They have a design with locally available products and now we need to prototype and test it. We hope we don’t need it.
        • Kijani Baby - The need for reusable diapers is greater than ever. Read more in WSJ. We are working to help the Kijani team contact new buyers, shore up their supply chain and figure out how to legally operate under Uganda’s strict COVID-19 stay at home orders.

        Looking to the future, the need for capital to help local SMEs restart operations after a global/local shutdown and rehire employees will be critical for the country's stability/future. Our company, Travel Ethiopia, is among those that are hard hit, and we are working with the company’s founder, Samrawit Moges, to shore up resources, adapt and weather the storm. Read Cepheus’ initial analysis of sectors that will be impacted. As we always do, we are exploring various innovative sources of capital to help meet the needs. If you have any questions or ideas, please let us know. Also, if you would like to arrange a "virtual coffee", we'd love to catch up.


        To get involved with RENEW or the IAN, contact us at renew@renewstrategies.com, follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC, find us on Instagram @impactangelnetwork or reach out to set up a virtual coffee.