Africa’s first women-led and women-focused private equity fund, Alitheia IDF (AIF), has announced the final close of the $100 million (R1 552 898 000,00) fund with European Investment Bank (EIB) joining as the closing investor with $24.6 million. With this final close, Alitheia IDF becomes the largest gender-lens private equity fund by value in Africa.
Led by principal partners Polo Leteka and Tokunboh Ishmael, Alitheia IDF invests in growth-stage companies across six African countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Zambia.
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The fund has a mandate to plug the over $42 billion investment gap between male and female entrepreneurs as a means of catalysing the economic power of African women as producers, distributors, and consumers. In 2021, the fund began implementing this mandate by leading investment rounds in five women-led businesses across essential sectors including agribusiness, education, manufacturing, housing, technology, and logistics. The investee companies are Jetstream Africa (Ghana), ReelFruit Ltd (Nigeria), SKLD (formerly SchoolKits, Nigeria), AV Light Steel (South Africa) and Chika’s Food (Nigeria).
One of the first drivers was when I realised that much of the capital that I was deploying was going to male founders and male-run businesses in male-dominated industries
“Globally, women have tremendous purchasing power as consumers and controllers of household economics. In the same vein, women entrepreneurs have a significant presence in Africa’s SME sector with African women making up 58% of the continent’s self-employed population. However, despite this economic power and presence, African women are underserved as consumers and producers. This has had huge impact on economic growth as the potential of more than half of the continent’s population remain untapped due to structural and systemic issues. We are proactively working towards filling this gap with a clear mandate to support women-led businesses across the continent while raising awareness for gender-smart investment as a path towards inclusive economic growth,” said Principal Partner Tokunboh Ishmael in Nigeria.
African women have remained underserved by the financial sector even as the historical investment gap between men and women continues to widen. Estimates show that African women receive less than 5% of all investment on the continent even though over 40% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa are women-led. Reports by McKinsey point out that closing the investment gap will lead to 26% gross domestic product (GDP) growth ($28 trillion) by 2025. By applying a gender-smart lens to investment, Alitheia IDF is setting the pace and providing a framework for gender-inclusive investments with the goal of enabling economic growth for African countries and, critically, African women.
Polo Leteka, Principal Partner in South Africa, explained that it is her hope that Alitheia IDF’s leading example will inspire other investors on the continent to invest in women, noting that women have an important role to play in unlocking the economic potential of Africa. She further stated that “the historic inability to appropriately capture the economic potential of African women has affected Africa’s development. Alitheia IDF is on a mission to fill this gap by using a gender smart approach and financial capital to empower women as consumers and producers.”
EIB Vice-President Thomas ÖSTROS said: “Women-owned businesses still struggle to raise funding, although they have proven their performance. I am very pleased to support a true ‘by-women for women’ 2X Flagship fund that invests in companies creating job opportunities while enhancing diversity in the sub-Saharan Africa’s economy. The EIB’s investment in Alitheia IDF is part of our SheInvest initiative seeking to mobilise €2 billion of investment to boost gender equality and female economic empowerment across the African continent. I truly believe that gender equality makes societies stronger.”
Alitheia IDF is supported by investors across four continents: the African Development Bank, Bank of Industry Nigeria, FinDev Canada, Dutch Good Growth Fund and the European Investment Bank. In 2019, the fund announced its first close at $75 million with the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, stating at the time that Alitheia IDF had fulfilled its commitment to raise funds for female-led businesses. “Promise made, promise kept!” he declared.