Impact investor Goodwell Investments and Oxfam Novib, a Dutch foundation and Oxfam International affiliate, have set up Pepea, a €20 million ($21.7 million) fund, to provide financing to early-stage startups in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. The fund, created with the backing of Oxfam Novib Impact Investments, will provide venture debt with a focus on mezzanine finance, which is a debt that can be turned into equity.
Pepea will target early-stage businesses that have been in existence for one to five years, and are generating revenues but yet to raise capital. Goodwell Investments, which will manage the fund’s operations, and help develop its portfolio, told TechCrunch that part of the support to startups will include ensuring that they have the right “structures and systems” in place, to help them prepare and raise their first rounds.
The fund will invest in businesses in sustainable agriculture, energy, clean mobility, logistics and waste management sectors, which produce basic goods and services that represent a huge proportion of household spending for lower-income communities. Pepea’s long-term plan is to improve the quality and affordability of these necessities.
The fund targets high-impact tech-enabled businesses, “because the combination of tech and brick-and-mortar works best in these environments. Tech enables access and affordability, and both are elementary for the end-users we aim to reach, the lower income groups on the continent,” said Goodwell Investments managing partner Els Boerhof.
The fund will finance startups in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, markets where Oxfam and Goodwell have a presence. Development organization Oxfam runs an SME incubation program in the three markets, while Goodwell’s funds are active in both Uganda and Kenya.
Pepea, the first fund by the impact investor and the non-government organization, will provide an initial check of between $100,000 and $500,000, and follow-on investments of up to $1 million, from Goodwell’s funds.
Goodwell launched its first fund in 2007, and has provided equity funding to over 20 businesses, including Paga, MFS Africa, Sendy, Max.ng and Good Nature Agro. While it mainly targets startups in finance, agriculture and mobility, last year, it led a $50 million Series C round for e-commerce scaleup Copia Global. The impact investor launched its second fund last year, the $154 million UMunthu II, and currently has over €310 million under management.
On the other hand, Oxfam Novib launched its first investment fund in 1996, and has since 2015 provided SMEs with access to finance through its Impact SME Development (iSME) program. It plans to further this with the Pepea fund, through which it hopes to help businesses maximize their positive impact within the communities they serve.
“Oxfam Novib played a sterling role in developing the microfinance sector as a means to provide access to financial services where they were most needed. As that sector has matured beyond the realm of NGOs, we are ready to change direction towards a less-served segment of the market,”said Oxfam Novib, investment manager, Tamara Campero.
“We acknowledge the challenges of SMEs in the region (especially those that are women-owned) to access fine-tuned patient capital and we now want to play a role to address those needs,” said Campero.