MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Acumen Fund, Adolf H Lundin Charitable Foundation Invest $1.5m in Farmer Information Service Esoko Networks of Ghana to Expand into East Africa

The Acumen Fund, a New York-based nonprofit venture fund, and the Adolf H Lundin Charitable Foundation, a Liechtenstein-based nonprofit organization, have invested an aggregate sum of USD 1.5 million in an unspecified combination of equity and debt in Esoko Networks Limited (Esoko) of Ghana, a technology platform that aims to strengthen the connection between farmers and markets in Africa with the use of mobile phones. The investment aims to help Esoko grow and expand its operation into East Africa.

The Esoko technology enables farmers to monitor market prices and follow market trends and also allows other stakeholders, such as non-governmental organizations, development finance institutions, governments and mobile network operators, to profile and survey farmers and establish a better understanding of the needs of market players.

According to a statement attributed to Godfrey Mwindaare, West Africa Director at Acumen, Esoko has … the potential to empower and transform the lives of rural farmers by providing one point of access to critical information and services, thereby closing the information asymmetry gap between commercial, well-endowed farmers and the rural, one-acre farmer”[1].

New York-based Acumen is a nonprofit organization that raises charitable donations with the aim of investing long-term debt or equity in business ventures. The fund’s investments totaled USD 368 million as of 2013. The Adolf H Lundin Charitable Foundation provides risk capital investments in small and medium-sized business ventures in Africa. As of 2012, the foundation had capital commitments of USD 12.8 million in the field of agriculture, financial inclusion and access to energy. Esoko is a Ghana-based technology company that established a messaging technology offering automatic and personalized price alerts, buy and sell offers, stock counts and polling services for individuals, governments and other agricultural stakeholders in Africa. Financial information on Esoko is not publicly available as of 2014.

By Alíz Crowley, Research Associate

About Acumen

Founded in 2001 with seed capital from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Cisco Systems Foundation and individual philanthropists, the Acumen Fund is a nonprofit venture fund based in New York. The organization operates from offices in Accra, Karachi, Mumbai, Nairobi and New York. Acumen raises charitable donations with the aim of investing long-term debt or equity in companies, entrepreneurs and concepts that promote the alleviation of poverty by sustainable solutions. It advocates the use of entrepreneurial approaches to tackle poverty, focusing on early-stage debt or equity investments in enterprises that provide low-income customers with access to healthcare, water, housing, alternative energy or agricultural inputs. Commitments generally range from USD 300,000 to USD 2.5 million per investee with an expected payback time frame of five to seven years. As of July 2013, Acumen has raised USD 368 million in follow-on and co-investment capital since its inception.

About Adolf H Lundin Charitable Foundation

The Adolf H Lundin Charitable Foundation is a Liechtenstein-based private organization that was established in 2007 with the goal of allocating grant funding to humanitarian organizations that work to promote health, education and wildlife conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010, the foundation changed its lending approach to include investments in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that operate in the agriculture, energy and financial inclusion sectors. The foundation provides risk capital investments in small and medium-sized business ventures aiming to generate wealth and employment as well as alleviating poverty. As of 2014, the foundation has eight active investments reaching 16 countries in Africa. As of December 31, 2012, the foundation reported CHF 13.5 million (USD 14.8 million) in total assets.

About Esoko Networks Limited

Esoko is a Ghana-based technology company that provides a messaging technology offering automatic and personalized price alerts, buy and sell offers, stock counts and polling services for individuals, governments and other agricultural stakeholders in Africa. Esoko also maintains a support program focusing on capacity building and financial sustainability. Esoko is currently active in Burundi, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Swaziland, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Investors in Esoko include the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, the Soros Economic Development Fund and two individuals. Financial information on the company is not available as of 2014.

Sources and Additional Resources

[1] Acumen Blog, May 2014, Announcing a New Investment, Esoko

MicroCapital, July 30, 2012, Goodwell West Africa Microfinance Development, Adlevo, Omidyar, Acumen, Capricorn Fund Expansion of Paga Money Transfers Across Nigeria

MicroCapital, January 20, 2012, Acumen Fund Loans $1m to Indian Microfinance Institution Gramalaya Urban and Rural Development Initiatives and Network (GUARDIAN)

MicroCapital, May 16, 2011, Acumen Fund, Grameen Foundation Make $1.7m Quasi-Equity Investment in Kenyan Microfinance Institution Juhudi Kilimo

MicroCapital Universe Profile: Acumen Fund

MicroCapital Universe Profile: Adolf H Lundin Charitable Foundation

MicroCapital Universe Profile: Esoko Networks Limited

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