Skip to content

Acumen’s Energy Partner Trip to East Africa

By: Steve Ross
  • Blog
  • East Africa

Acumen’s impact is ultimately about people. Identifying with, standing with, listening to and empowering people.  This impact is delivered with dignity, respect, sincerity and generosity.  And the affects impact everyone involved. Its Pioneer Energy Investment Initiative Partners experienced that firsthand on a trip to East Africa the first week of March.

Led by Acumen’s Global Energy Lead, Leslie Labruto and Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships, Kate Montgomery, a diverse team of nine Partners from six countries and four Acumen staff journeyed together making visits to seven current and prospective investees in the energy sector.  Bonding quickly by sharing close quarters, traveling rough roads to remote places during the rainy season, the group explored the energy landscape.  At each site, the group listened as the entrepreneurs shared not just the details of their business, but their passion for the work. Yes, there were hard questions about microgrids—technology, viability, scalability, affordability, policy, timing; yes, there are compelling new offerings like high efficiency cook stoves that reduce fuel consumption, clear indoor air, save money, and lessen environmental impact.  Yes, lives are being changed by the widespread adoption of solar home systems.  And yes, new productive uses of energy are improving livelihoods, reducing waste and creating jobs.

More importantly, we met with people. Women whose support groups spread the good word about improved cook stoves and their impact on homes, families and finances;  A doctor assigned to a remote village who now has lights in his home— an improvement in his quality of life in support of his ongoing importance to village health; A businessman whose maize milling business is now electrified and will serve more farmers than ever at the time of the next harvest; engineers who take pride in their skill at innovating new products, new software and new manufacturing methods that provide solutions that work; Homeowners whose dignity, safety and family life has been raised to a new level by having an energized home.

The Pioneer Energy Partners team felt the impact. Only loosely associated prior to the trip, the group found much in common and shared freely and reflected deeply on the experience that would only be gained by being there together.

Acumen is standing with the poor. Where will you stand?


Steve Ross is an Acumen Partner and serves as Chief Operating Officer of Universal Electric Corporation where he also stands as a Director on its Board. He has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and is a licensed Professional Engineer. He is married to Shelley Scherer and has two teen-aged children.