Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are crucial to achieving ACDI/VOCA’s mission of increasing economic prosperity and social inclusion. They are local engines for innovation, growth, and expanded opportunity. But the financing gap for these SMEs — often described as the “missing middle”— is estimated to be more than $5 trillion every year. SMEs lack financing because they are too large for microfinance institutions but too small for large traditional investors. These viable businesses would benefit from patient capital or longer-term, flexible financial products and technical assistance to invest, upgrade, and grow. ACDI/VOCA’s subsidiary, AV Ventures LLC, formed in 2017 to help close this gap by providing innovative, catalytic financing to agribusiness SMEs in select emerging markets.
OUR IN-COUNTRY TEAMS
Though based in Washington, D.C., each of the four funds we manage (or co-manage) has a highly skilled in-country team that lead the investment process — all in line with ACDI/VOCA’s long history of empowering leaders in the countries where we work. AV Venture’s locally led approach differentiates us from many internationally backed impact fund managers who rely on U.S. or European fund managers. In this way, AV Ventures contributes to the maturing of the impact investing industry, since more locally led fund managers will result in more locally appropriate fund designs and economics and more intimate knowledge of investee companies’ needs.
OUR IMPACT FUNDS
The Impact in Northern Kenya (INK) Fund, managed by AV Ventures and the ACDI/VOCA-led Feed the Future Kenya USAID Kuza, advances USAID’s goal of increasing local resiliency. In doing so, AV Ventures is demonstrating that sustainable provision of credit for micro and small businesses can be a meaningful contributor to resilience in these communities. The AV Ventures team in Nairobi works closely with USAID Kuza staff to design complementary technical assistance efforts and build investment readiness among local actors.
When AV Ventures launched, it was clear that Central Asia would be a priority region due to ACDI/VOCA’s long history there supporting locally managed financial institutions. AV Ventures decided to team up on a joint venture with Frontiers, the successful Central Asian wholesale lender based in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. The result, AV Frontiers, is the first Central Asian regional impact fund manager in the Kyrgyz Republic. Together with other emerging players, AV Frontiers is building a new and growing market for growth capital focused on high potential SMEs.
AV Venture’s West Africa regional hub is based in Accra, Ghana, where our senior investment manager oversees staff with ample experience in private equity and banking. In addition to leading our investment process for the Ghana fund, the Ghana office leads efforts to expand our footprint into neighboring countries, starting with Burkina Faso. A Ghanaian ag-tech investee company provided strategic guidance on expanding their groundbreaking model into Burkina Faso and supporting the launch of a small pilot fund in partnership with ACDI/VOCA affiliate Tanager and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This cross-border work will serve as the foundation for AV Venture’s expanded West Africa fund, for which we are currently fundraising.
AV Ventures finalized its partnership with Pomona Impact in 2021, forming part of Pomona’s General Partnership. Under this partnership, AV Ventures co-manages a $30 million Impact Investing Fund for Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) in Central America. We also leverage the work of USAID Transforming Market Systems Activity in Honduras, led by ACDI/VOCA, to identify potential investee companies with high social or environmental impact. As the first and only impact fund based in and focused exclusively on Central America, the fund is an important contributor to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of this emerging market.