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Posted on November 12, 2019 | Updated at 6AM

FinDev Canada invests in gender-lens fund to bolster women-owned SMEs in Africa



Johannesburg, 12 November, 2019 – FinDev Canada has announced an investment of $7.5 million to Alitheia IDF, a fund supporting women-owned and led businesses, to boost women’s economic empowerment and access to finance in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A joint venture between women-owned and led funds Alitheia Capital (AC) in Nigeria and IDF Capital (IDFC) in South Africa, Alitheia IDF Fund (AIF) was seeded with $12.5 million from the African Development Bank. The first fund of its kind in Africa, AIF uses a gender-lens investing approach to support high-growth African SMEs that help improve women’s access to finance and foster their economic empowerment. 

The capital invested by FinDev Canada will be used to finance locally-owned, high-growth SMEs. The Fund targets SMEs that address unmet demand for essential goods and services and operate in priority sectors where women entrepreneurs are dominant both as producers and consumers, such as agribusiness and consumer goods.

“We are pleased to be working with AIF to further improve women’s access to finance in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we are confident that their unique and tailored approach to gender-lens investing will yield great social, financial, and economic impacts in their communities,” said Suzanne Gaboury, Chief Investment Officer at FinDev Canada at a ceremony held during the 2019 Africa Investment Forum. 

The Forum is a game-changing investment marketplace convened by the African Development Bank with seven founding partners to attract capital to the continent. 

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina, explained why he is committed to support empowerment of women in business with Alitheia IDF. He said: “Our goal isn’t complicated it is simple, to back women-owned businesses, spark innovation and unleash prosperity for women across Africa. Investing in women entrepreneurs in Africa must happen, because women are not only Africa’s future, they are Africa’s present. Currently, women operate over 40% of SMEs in Africa, but there is a financing gap of $42 billion between male and female entrepreneurs. This gap must be closed, and quickly.”

“The Alitheia IDF fund is coming at a unique time when investors and leaders around the world are waking up to the potential of leveraging the full participation of women in the global economy, which McKinsey estimates will increase global GDP by more than 25% over the next five years. My co-founder, Polo Leteka, and I along with the entire AIF team are looking forward to financing and supporting overlooked growth businesses led by women. These businesses are characterized by the dividends of gender diversity: enhanced corporate governance, smarter decision making and leading-edge innovation, which result in superior business performance”, says Tokunboh Ishmael, Managing Partner at Alitheia IDF 

Increased access to finance for women in Africa

Even though 40% of Africa’s SMEs are women-owned, only 2% of them successfully access finance. The women SME market in Africa is estimated to represent a funding gap of over $20 billion in unmet financing needs. AIF was developed to proactively finance and support this segment of investees.

AIF is expected to invest in approximately 12 high-growth SMEs with regional and pan regional scaling potential, and some of its specific targets regarding women are: 

  • Creating 5,000 jobs for women along the value and/or supply chain;
  • Providing up to 100,000 women with access to essential products and services;
  • Providing at least 6 women-owned or led businesses with access to capital;
  • Allocating and mobilizing $100 million of capital to women-led businesses;
  • Helping 40 or more women access board, executive, management, or other leadership roles.

Empowering women entrepreneurs in Africa

Alitheia IDF Fund is a women-led fund created to target and assist the African women-led SMEs market, which is currently estimated to represent a $20 billion funding gap. It invests in sectors that engage a significant percentage of women as entrepreneurs or consumers. Both of its Principal Partners, Tokunboh Ishmael and Polo Radebe, are accomplished women entrepreneurs and private investors with over 40 years of combined experience in investing and business development in Africa.

FinDev Canada’s investment in AIF qualifies under the 2X Challenge Criteria. The 2X Challenge Initiative was launched during the 2018 G7 Summit in Charlevoix and aims to raise USD 3B to help foster women’s economic empowerment in developing countries. It calls on development finance institutions to mobilize their own funds, as well as private capital, to help advance women as entrepreneurs, as business leaders, as employees and as consumers of products and services that enhance their economic participation.

About FinDev Canada

The Development Finance Institute Canada Inc., operating under the FinDev Canada brand, is a Canadian institution dedicated to providing financial services to the private sector in developing countries with the aim of combating poverty through economic growth by focusing on three main themes: economic development through job creation, women economic empowerment, and climate change mitigation. The Development Finance Institute Canada Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Export Development Canada (EDC). 

About Alitheia IDF Fund

Alitheia IDF Fund is a pioneering private equity fund that identifies, invests in and grows SMEs led by gender-diverse teams to achieve solid financial returns and tangible social impact for communities in Africa. They invest in sectors that engage a significant percentage of women, either as entrepreneurs, producers, distributors or consumers. Some of these sectors are: Agribusiness, Consumer Goods, Creative Industries, and Financial Services.


Media Contacts:

FinDev Canada:
Angela Rodriguez
Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist
Tel.: 514-673-7154

African Development Bank:
Amba Mpoke-Bigg
Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank 

For further information, images and interview opportunities about AIF please contact: 
Kymberlie Andrew 
+44 7940 322320’