IMPACT Awards 2021

Impact project/investment of the year - financial services: The Savannah Fund/IFC

In March, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) led a $25 million fundraising for the Savannah Fund, which invests to increase lending to sub-Saharan start-ups with a focus on supporting women entrepreneurs and "disruptive companies in high-growth sectors".

Mbwana Alliy, Savannah Fund's managing partner, said in a press release at the time: "Entrepreneurs in residence, especially female founders, are a key part of our investment strategy. We're especially bullish on start-ups that have the potential to scale beyond the continent and that can expand into Silicon Valley and emerging markets like South East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America."

IFC invested $3 million, which added to $500,000 from the Women's Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, and a group of other, unidentified investors, who committed a total of $25 million.

The fund will provide early-stage funding to start-ups in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, with an eye on expansion to Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Uganda in East Africa, as well as Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana in West Africa. The fund will invest in companies that support development at the bottom of the pyramid in sectors including fintech, education, logistics and e-commerce, healthcare, and agtech.

It is Savannah Fund's second seed fund. It has invested in more than 30 companies across seven countries on the continent.

Kevin Njiraini, IFC's regional director for Southern Africa and Nigeria, said: "Early-stage funding is vital to enable more of Africa's emerging and growing tech founders to grow their businesses and fuel the transformation of Africa's Internet economy."

A joint report by the IFC and tech giant Google published last year estimates that Africa's Internet economy has the potential to represent 5.2% of the continent's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025, contributing nearly $180 billion to its economy. The projected potential contribution could reach $712 billion by 2050.