Acumen Blog



Acumen, with support from Dow, Unilever and Barclays hosts their second annual Technical Assistance (TA) Initiative Summit from May 5-7 in Nairobi, Kenya. The Summit is the second gathering in support of Acumen’s TA Initiative aimed at accelerating the development and distribution of crucial products and services in agriculture, water, sanitation and energy across East and West Africa.

Since last year’s inaugural summit, five technical assistance grants have been provided to accelerate the growth of social enterprises focused on solar lighting, sanitation, and agricultural productivity for small holder farmers. Dow, Unilever and Barclays have each pledged both financial and technical support to help scale social enterprises including d.light, Sproxil, Sanergy, Western Seed, and Virtual City.8798781411_d253098234_b-2

“We are pleased to  have been the initial corporate partner  and are committed to continued support of Acumen’s Technical Assistance Initiative because of the genuine impact we are seeing on the ground” said Bo Miller, the President of The Dow Chemical Company Foundation. Dow has supported the provision of technical assistance grants to social enterprises and provided expertise from its global supply chain and engineering teams. “For our company, being a part of this initiative offers both a chance to have meaningful impact and learn from pioneering entrepreneurs on the ground.”

The Summit brings together 15 social enterprises in Acumen’s portfolio from across East and West Africa. Duncan Onyango, Acumen East Africa Regional Director said, “We’re working to find new ways to link the corporate sector with social enterprises across Africa to increase access to critical goods and services for low-income communities.”


“Unilever is looking for ways to build more inclusive business models across everything we do, and we see the kinds of social enterprises that are coming together for Acumen’s Technical Assistance Summit as ideal partners,” said Rebecca Marmott,  Global External Affairs Director for Unilever. Jeremy Awori, Managing Director of Barclays Kenya added, “Barclays has an extensive, well established local presence in Africa and we see this summit as a great opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the pioneering enterprises that are strengthening this economy.”

Yasmina Zaidman, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Acumen, added, “As investors in businesses that are impacting lives, we see the potential for business to make a difference, but we also know that taking this impact to scale will require creative new partnerships. The TA Initiative and the Summit here in Nairobi give us all an opportunity to find new ways to work together to bring social innovations to scale.”

“Participating in Acumen’s TA Initiative has provided Sproxil key tools to launch new market initiatives which will have significant long-term impact,” said Alden Zecha, CFO of Sproxil, Inc. “We are excited to partner with Acumen and other key players to help drive further social enterprise innovation.”

Acumen has invested over $30 million across East Africa  since 2007, focusing on a wide range of sustainable, scalable businesses—in agriculture, housing, health, water and energy—that use market-based approaches to deliver products and services to millions of low income people from both rural and urban communities.   Acumen’s recent investments in the region include Miliki Afya, a low cost high quality healthcare provider in Kenya, Mekelle Farms, Ethiopia’s largest producer of day old chicks, as well as KZ Noir, a specialty coffee producer that sources its coffee from over 10,000 smallholder coffee farmers in Rwanda.



On a cold January afternoon in 2012, at Dow’s headquarters in Midland, Michigan, I sat at a large conference table with representatives from across Dow’s venture fund, foundation, sustainability team, and human resources department. This was the first meeting of its kind that I had attended with one of our corporate partners. I was unwittingly part of an emerging shift in how social change organizations and corporations are working together. A shift towards partnerships that align business growth objectives with social and environmental imperatives. [Read More]

Robert (Bob) Collymore of Safaricom Limited Joins Acumen’s Board Of Directors

Acumen announced today that Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom Limited, will join its Board of Directors. Collymore, who has been at the helm of the Kenyan communications company since 2010, previously sat on the Advisory Council of the nonprofit social venture fund founded by Jacqueline Novogratz. He has more than 30 years in the telecommunications sector working in Africa as well as Asia and Europe. [Read More]