Press release: Acumen Announces Nearly $70 Million Close of For-Profit Off-Grid Energy Fund through its subsidiary Acumen Capital Partners
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Acumen, the nonprofit that invests philanthropic capital in companies and leaders tackling poverty, today announced the approximately $70 million close of for-profit fund, KawiSafi Ventures, through Acumen Capital Partners. After investing $22 million of patient, philanthropic capital across the off-grid ecosystem and impacting 81 million lives, Acumen saw an opportunity to drive energy access for millions of low-income people in East Africa and scale the clean energy sector.
In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people currently live without electricity and spend $17 billion a year on dirty, inefficient energy. KawiSafi aims to deliver clean, affordable energy to 10 million people, at least half of whom live in poverty, and displace more than one million tons of carbon dioxide in the next 10 years, to address energy poverty and help avert the current climate crisis. To date, KawiSafi has invested $21 million to impact 4.3 million people and avert 360 thousand tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
“Acumen’s investing experience has shown us that Africa has a unique opportunity to solve its energy problem,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen. “We created KawiSafi to prove that renewable, off-grid energy can be a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to electrify the continent. By building scalable solutions that can bring power to low-income communities that have lived without electricity for too long, we can create a seismic shift in off-grid energy, releasing immense levels of human productivity and minimizing impact on the environment. Given that Africa’s population is expected to nearly double by 2030, a clean energy strategy is good not just for the continent but for everyone.”
KawiSafi has raised approximately $70 million to catalyze companies that deliver clean, affordable renewable energy to low-income consumers and businesses quickly climbing the energy ladder. The fund maintains Acumen’s values and impact-focused approach to investing but aims to deliver market-competitive returns by making larger, more significant investments in high-growth companies with proven business models. Some of KawiSafi’s early supporters include anchor investor the Green Climate Fund along with Steve Jurvetson, Chris Anderson and the Skoll Foundation. Acumen, as sponsor, holds an equity interest in the fund.
“The energy landscape has changed drastically in the last decade, and we have seen proven, profitable businesses emerge that are already transforming how low-income people access electricity,” said KawiSafi’s Managing Director Amar Inamdar. “These companies need early-growth capital to scale so they meet customer demand and drive innovation in a rapidly evolving ecosystem. KawiSafi will fill critical market gaps to create a sustainable, off-grid ecosystem, supporting countries to realize their UN Sustainable Development Goal of universal energy access.”
d.light, a longtime Acumen investee, is one of KawiSafi’s first investments. The company, which manufactures and distributes a broad range of high-quality, affordable solar products, has impacted more than 90 million lives and offset 21 million tons of CO2. d.light recently closed $41 million in Series E financing, demonstrating how KawiSafi can help accelerate growth for companies with proven business models poised to generate significant financial and social returns.
KawiSafi is managed by Acumen Capital Partners LLC, an Acumen-owned subsidiary that structures and manages funds investing in social enterprises poised to scale to transform the lives of low-income people everywhere and solve some of poverty’s greatest challenges. Acumen Capital Partners leverages Acumen’s nearly 20 years of investing in the world’s toughest, most underdeveloped markets to address critical capital gaps for social enterprises on their journey to scale.
GCF Executive Director ad interim Javier Manzanares said KawiSafi Ventures has great potential in its ability to act as a role model for similar renewable energy investments in other countries.
“While the establishment of off-grid solar power will initially target at least 10 million energy-scarce people in Rwanda and Kenya, this fund has elements which could be replicated in bringing universal, low-emission power to communities elsewhere,” Manzanares said. “A key benefit of KawiSafi Ventures is the way it empowers solar power entrepreneurs at the grassroots level to leapfrog the need for fossil fuels in lighting up people’s lives.”
Photo courtesy of Sameer Halai.