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Acumen Fund Expands into West Africa

Acumen Fund Expands into West Africa, Investing In Pioneering Entrepreneurs Supporting Land Rights and Agriculture in Ghana

New Office in Accra, Ghana Led by Godfrey Mwindaare Builds on Acumen Fund’s Decade of Innovation in East Africa and South Asia

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Accra, Ghana, February 15, 2012 – Acumen Fund, a pioneer of impact investing working to create a world beyond poverty, today announced its launch in West Africa, with new investments in innovative companies supporting land rights and agriculture in low- income communities across Ghana.

Acumen Fund’s first investments in West Africa include a US$1 million loan to Medeem Ghana, Ltd (Medeem), which aims to strengthen property rights for the poor, and a US$1.5 million equity investment in GADCO Coöperatief U.A. (GADCO), an integrated agri-food company. The new Acumen Fund West Africa office based in Accra, Ghana builds on the social venture fund’s decade of leadership supporting entrepreneurs who create businesses that provide affordable housing, healthcare, education, clean energy and water, and agricultural goods and services to the poor across South Asia and East Africa.

“We have a strong foundation in place and ambitious plans for growth and impact in West Africa,” said Catherine Casey, Global Expansion Manager, Acumen Fund. Ms. Casey led the start-up of the Acumen Fund West Africa office in the first year including building operations, establishing an investment pipeline and making two investments. She will lead Acumen’s global expansion to at least 3 new regions by 2015.

Acumen’s West Africa office will now be taken over by Godfrey Mwindaare. Mr. Mwindaare brings over 12 years investment experience in more than 30 African countries with Barclays Capital, Standard Bank and the African Development Bank. Mr. Mwindaare also brings deep commitment to Acumen Fund’s mission and is well-equipped to build a strong community of local entrepreneurs, donors and advisors in the region.

“I am delighted to join such a pioneering organization,” said Godfrey Mwindaare, West Africa Director, Acumen Fund. “With 10 years history and operating experience, we’re seeing real impact around the world, and believe that patient capital has an important role to play in West Africa. I look forward to building on our early success in Ghana, and developing a strong community of entrepreneurs and partners for Acumen Fund West Africa.”

Acumen Fund believes that building social enterprises can transform society and create more inclusive markets that serve the poor. “We created Acumen Fund to find the enterprises, leaders and ideas that would create more dignity and more choice, unleashing more of the human energy behind all lasting solutions – that of the people who face poverty and yearn to solve their own problems,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO and Founder, Acumen Fund.

Medeem, a Ghanaian majority owned and operated social enterprise, has developed an innovative and sustainable approach to the formalization of land rights in Ghana. Medeem’s proprietary ParcelCert™ product provides a package of evidence that documents a client’s claim of rights with respect to the land, including a government standard land survey. With the aim of providing access to land tenure security, Medeem’s offering is targeted to solve the long-standing issues of access and affordability of land rights documentation especially for society’s most vulnerable. Medeem’s unique private sector solution brings the process to the client’s doorstep and is designed to maximize efficiency and lower costs by utilizing advanced mobile geospatial technologies developed by Medeem in conjunction with its program partners – ESRI and Trimble Navigation.

Documentation of land tenure affords individuals the dignity, legal empowerment and peace of mind to occupy, use and invest in the property, enabling access to services critical to economic development, including credit and basic public infrastructure. Individuals are also provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding inputs and investments in their property. Further, Medeem readies its clients for the formal land registration process should they decide to take that step.  Acumen co-invested in Medeem with the Lundin Foundation.

“By making the process of formalizing land rights both affordable and accessible to all segments of society, Medeem’s program holds the promise of effecting real change in the lives of many of Africa’s farmers, small business entrepreneurs, women and families,” said Craig DeRoy, CEO, Medeem.

Another ground breaking investment, GADCO, aims to transform opportunities for smallholder farmers, develop reliable local food markets, and ensure the environmental sustainability and responsible stewardship of Ghana’s agricultural land. The company plans to operate a modern hub farm, with an initial focus on rice production, and a program that leverages the resources and infrastructure of the hub farm to provide small-holder farmers located on the periphery of this core farm with production services, inputs, improved seeds and access to end markets.

Rice has become an increasingly important staple in the Ghanaian diet, particularly among the low-income population. Despite its importance, Ghana currently imports almost 70% of its rice from abroad at a cost of more than US$500 million, presenting food security concerns. Through its Copa Jasmine rice, GADCO has demonstrated that African grains can be successfully cultivated locally. Other investors in GADCO include Root Capital and Summit Capital.

“A confluence of challenges has led to low productivity in the cultivation of rice in Ghana estimated to be 40% below world averages. These challenges are exacerbated for smallholder farmers, who represent over 80% of domestic rice production and lack access to markets, often forcing them to take below market prices for their product,” said Toks Abimbola, Co-Founder, GADCO.

“GADCO will work with farmers to overcome these challenges by dramatically increasing their yields and income, and we eventually expect to engage 7,000 smallholder farmers, improving an estimated 35,000 lives, at our current site in Ghana,” added Iggy Bassi, Co-Founder, GADCO.

With these two investments in place and a strong local team led by Mr. Mwindaare, Acumen Fund West Africa is positioned to grow quickly in support of Acumen Fund’s global goal of impacting the lives of 150 million people by 2015. For additional information on Acumen Fund West Africa and its investments in GADCO and Medeem, please visit www.acumenfund.org.

About Acumen Fund

Acumen Fund is working to create a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders and breakthrough ideas. We invest patient capital in business models that deliver critical, affordable goods and services to the world’s poor, improving the lives of millions. Since 2001, Acumen Fund has invested more than $70 million in enterprises that provide access to water, health, energy, housing and agricultural services to low-income customers in South Asia and East Africa. And we are building a global community of emerging leaders that believe in creating a more inclusive world through the tools of both business and philanthropy. For more information on Acumen Fund’s activities and investments, visit www.acumenfund.org and www.acumenfundblog.org.

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