Global Coalition Launched $80 Million Relief Fund to Protect Energy Access in Vulnerable Communities from COVID-19 Fallout

September 01, 2021

The Energy Access Relief Fund managed by SIMA is an unprecedented partnership of 16 governments, foundations and investors and aims to provide essential financial support to energy access companies in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

NEW YORK, September 1, 2021 — Today, a first-of-its-kind relief fund launched with a first close of $68 million and a target of over $80 million to protect energy access for at least 20 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The Energy Access Relief Fund (EARF) is the culmination of an unprecedented partnership convened by Acumen, including CDC Group, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), FMO, Green Climate Fund (GCF), Shell Foundation, IKEA Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), USAID, and Power Africa. The EARF, managed by Social Investment Managers and Advisors (SIMA), will provide relief capital in the form of short-term loans to an estimated 90 energy access companies in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia still struggling with disruptions wrought by COVID-19.

“Access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy is essential in lifting communities out of poverty. We could see that the pandemic was adversely impacting those who were most vulnerable, and that we needed to take action. We couldn’t do it alone — it would take all of us,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen’s Founder and CEO. “The launch of the EARF illustrates the power of partnership and moral imagination in a time of crisis.”

Broken supply chains, increased costs of solar components, and continued COVID lockdowns have crippled the energy access industry, which provides renewable energy solutions such as solar lanterns, household solar, mini-grids, and modern energy cooking equipment to customers in low-income and last-mile communities. A coalition of committed global investors and donors created the Fund to protect the industry’s progress toward United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7: universal energy access

Together, CDC, DFC, and FMO are mobilizing our capital to ensure the survival of small and medium social enterprises extending energy access to the 800 million people living without power. The EARF’s flexible and innovative financial structure blends different types of capital to offer low-interest loans and liquidity while the health and economic consequences of the pandemic continue,” said Geoff Manley, Head of the Energy Access and Efficiency team at CDC Group.

SIMA’s analysis of energy access companies eligible for relief funding across 50 countries shows that 77% of potential borrowers require emergency financial assistance to stay afloat. Without it, many companies may be forced to take drastic measures such as pausing operations, laying off staff, or permanently closing their doors, which would disrupt energy access for customers at a particularly difficult time. 

“We have innovated to create a robust underwriting approach that allows us to rapidly provide relief loans to companies that most need our support during the crisis. We have also implemented into our investment approach a comprehensive ESG process, including developing a gender action plan and supporting the companies to deal with COVID-19 challenges,” said Asad Mahmood, the CEO of SIMA, the EARF Fund Manager

The EARF is an extraordinary example of stakeholders uniting in crisis, even as budgets were constrained and investments were at risk. “We have proudly worked alongside IKEA Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, IFC, U.K. Aid, USAID, and the World Bank to leverage our collective grant capital to de-risk and catalyze senior investors in the Relief Fund. Small-scale renewable energy enterprises and innovators are scrambling to serve some of the world’s poorest communities. We hope similar collaborations follow this sector landmark — much more capital will be needed in the coming months to continue progress toward universal energy access,said Sam Parker, Director at Shell Foundation.

The Energy Access Relief Fund (EARF) aims to safeguard gains made in the once-booming energy access sector. In the last decade, the industry has grown six-fold, providing 470 million people with energy access, employing more than 370,000 in green jobs and avoiding 74 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. 

“The EARF is a critical tool to help us build back better and tackle climate change. It will ensure that social enterprises can continue to provide renewable energy solutions and advance climate mitigation and resilience across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia,” said Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director at the Green Climate Fund. “GCF is proud to be part of this innovative partnership, and delighted that it is moving ahead to launch.”

Through creativity, financial innovation, and fiscal discipline, the EARF intends to protect social enterprises that combat energy poverty and are leading the renewable energy transition across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.


Sam Schneider
[email protected]

About the Energy Access Relief Fund: 

The Energy Access Relief Fund (EARF) is a first-of-its-kind collaboration among major donors and investors in the energy access sector to address the liquidity crunch that energy access enterprises face because of the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. With a target of $80 million, the EARF aims to provide subordinated, low-interest debt to more than 90 energy access companies in need in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. It is a global partnership of 16 governments, foundations, and investors, including Acumen, CDC Group, FMO, Green Climate Fund (GCF), IKEA Foundation, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Power Africa, Shell Foundation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Social Investment Managers and Advisors (SIMA), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), The Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC), U.K. Aid, and World Bank Group. The EARF is also part of the 2021 Roadmap of the World Economic Forum’s COVID Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship that mobilizes support for social entrepreneurs who are making a difference on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis.

About Acumen

Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty. We invest patient capital in inclusive, early-stage social enterprises that serve people in poverty and enable them to transform their lives. We share our ethos, principles, and practices to train the next generation of leaders through Acumen Academy. We scale the most effective solutions to systemic poverty through for-profit, returnable impact funds, managed by Acumen Capital Partners, totaling more than $150 million. Founded in 2001 by Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen has invested more than $137 million in 139 companies across Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the United States. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter @Acumen.

Other Articles From Our Blog

Acumen Blog

Investing to Overcome Climate Change

Read More

Acumen Blog

She Biked Over 500 Miles through a Tropical Storm and Heatwave to Support Acumen!

Read More

Acumen Blog

Acumen Resilient Agriculture Fund: Investing in Smallholder Farmers

Read More

Get Our Newsletter To Stay Up To Date