Displaced people are not just refugees; they are employees and employers, consumers and suppliers, and business and political leaders.

In our latest publication with the Amahoro Coalition we explore how the private sector can empower refugee communities, developing commercially-viable programs in refugee settings that:

  1. Strengthen access to affordable education
  2. Provide capital to scale refugee-inclusive businesses
  3. Support market access for refugee-owned enterprises

These solutions not only empower refugee communities, but they also create a pool of talent, a thriving market place and enhance partnership opportunities within the private sector.

Read the full publication here

About the Amahoro Coalition 

Amahoro Coalition is an African-led initiative convening business leaders from the region to spearhead the engagement of the private sector in transforming refugee communities. Focusing on education and livelihoods, the Coalition amplifies existing refugee initiatives, stimulates awareness and interest among businesses across the region, generates solutions by facilitating concrete private sector commitments, and serves as a dynamic hub to catalyse policies that encourage companies to integrate refugees within their supply chains.

Innovest recognises the current COVID-19 pandemic threatens an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there could be 25 million jobs lost and additional losses in labour income could reach USD 3.4 trillion.

Emerging markets are set to bare the worst of these impacts. Foreign investors have pulled $83bn from emerging markets since the start of the crisis. Many small businesses, the engines of job creation in these markets, already operate at the margins of social protection, and will likely be the most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis negatively.

Through this severe crisis, Innovest Advisory is continuing its support to create and scale sustainable market-based solutions to development challenges aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Innovest works with a broad range of remarkable social enterprises in emerging markets who are having a catalytic impact on the lives of vulnerable populations in developing countries. These businesses include:

Pawame works to electrify and connect the African continent by offering affordable, reliable solar home systems on pay-as-you-go financing. Currently, Pawame operates in 14 Kenyan counties, including in Kakuma refugee camp which houses 120,000 refugees. In the past 3 years, they have reached over 13,000 households and continue to expand their products and services to reach more underserved families

Sierra Agra Inc, Sierra Leone’s only commercial juicing company which supports 3,500 of the country’s poorest smallholder farmers as an exporter of tropical fruit juice products to EU and North American markets. Their latest initiative, Project 10,000, vertically integrates with farming supply chains to pay village-level farmers greater and more reliable incomes.

KIMS Microfinance, which is the Somali market leader in providing sharia compliant microfinance services. Since 2014, KIMS has disbursed over $18m in financing to 18,200 clients. KIMS aims to enhance local economic development in Somalia by providing high-quality diversified microfinance services to low-income, economically active youth, women, displaced and rural communities, offering savings, microenterprise and SME financing. KIMS combines professional service delivery with competitive pricing, innovative products and supplementary non-financial services.

These businesses, whose core business models focus on providing quality products, services and employment for vulnerable, underserved populations, are now exposed to the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.

Pawame has wasted no time in implementing a COVID-19 Response Plan, built around the objective of “Keeping our business, our people, and our customers healthy”. Since masks are now required in public places in Kenya to slow down the spread of COVID-19, Pawame collaborated with staff member, Davis Okoth, to produce masks for the Pawame network. Davis is a talented cloth designer and is currently helping Pawame to distribute “Pawame Davis Masks” to staff, sales agents and technicians along with guidance on how to best use and wear a mask.

Pawame has also set up hand washing stations in many of its county shops, alongside KomeshaCorona health guideline posters. At their Nairobi HQ, almost all staff work at home, with essential operational staff given alternatives to public transport and maintaining social distance in rearranged, segregated work stations.

Emerging markets are set to bare the worst of these impacts. Foreign investors have pulled $83bn from emerging markets since the start of the crisis. Many small businesses, the engines of job creation in these markets, already operate at the margins of social protection, and will likely be the most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis negatively.

Likewise, KIMS Microfinance have drafted a Covid-19 Response plan that assesses health risks to both staff and the enterprises they serve as well as the financial stress it will place on clients businesses and the overall microfinance company. This has resulted in mandatory mask wearing and social distancing practices by KIMS staff, the provision of hygiene advice to clients and an institutional decision to pause all new lending and consider the rescheduling of client payment instalments on a merit basis.

Sierra Agri Inc. has learned from the experience of struggling through the economic impacts of a pandemic, having been formed out of the collapse of a previous business Africa Felix Juices, which went bust in the 2004 Ebola crisis. Prior to joining Sierra Agra as a Board Director and CEO, Stephen Gaojia (pictured right) was the National Ebola Coordinator of Sierra Leone’s battle to end the spread of the disease. He has been recently met with President Bio and his cabinet to offer his insights on how to keep COVID-19 cases at minimum levels. Learning from these lessons Sierra Agra has instituted a social distancing policy at its juicing facility and among its 3,500 network of smallholder farmers. Sierra Leone as a whole has seen low incidence of COVID-19 due in part to the high degree of government and societal mobilisation given the countries experience with Ebola.

These are strong examples of our partners’ adaptability to transform operations to be resilient against the pandemic while continuing to offer vital services to vulnerable populations. However, with the prospect of a prolonged period of lockdown, social distancing and economic shocks in the areas they operate, these businesses are almost certainly going to need additional financial and technical support from the development and impact investment community.

With the right external support and leadership from the likes Pawame, KIMS and SAI , the social enterprise sector can weather this extended shock to continue serving marginalised clients through these unprecedented times.

Find out more about the work of Pawame, KIMS and SAI at their websites:




Innovest partner Pawame Solar, which provides off-grid solar home systems to refugees and the broader host community in Kenya was featured in this article by the Refugee Investment Network (RIN) published by the Standard Social Innovation Review. Innovest is a member of the RIN Advisory Council.

Innovest Advisory partner KIMS Microfinance, features in Inside Arabia article on microfinance in Somalia.

Innovest Advisory is delighted to announce its partnership with the Tent Foundation.

The Tent Partnership for Refugees was founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and CEO of Chobani. The Tent Foundation seeks to engage with the private sector to address the global refugee crisis by mobilising the networks, resources, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit of the business community.

Through its partnership with the Tent Foundation, Innovest Advisory has committed to mobilise more than $7 million in debt and equity funding over the next two years to invest in projects that will directly support refugees. This commitment is part of Innovest’s strategy to source and curate opportunities for socially motivated investors to invest in commercial business ventures that intentionally benefit refugees and/or host communities.

Innovest Advisory is looking forward to working together with Tent to develop innovative market-based solutions to the current refugee crisis.

The commitment projects include creating new, quality jobs for refugees in the apparel industry in Turkey and Jordan, providing access to finance for refugees in Jordan, Uganda, and Somalia, and offering affordable solar home systems to refugees in Kenya. Innovest will work alongside partner organizations such as the First Syrian Exporters Group, a consortium of Syrian owned garment businesses in Turkey, Pawame, an off-grid solar company in Kenya operating in Kakuma camp, KIMS Microfinance, the leading microfinance provider in Somalia, and FSI, a provider of ethical labor in recruiting and hiring refugees to achieve these objectives. It is estimated that these projects will create more than 6,000 employment opportunities for refugees, in addition to job opportunities for vulnerable populations within host communities.

The Responsible Finance Podcast provides access to the leaders behind innovative approaches to creating positive social impact in responsible finance. In their latest podcast, Justin Sykes, Managing Director of Innovest Advisory, speaks about an Islamic microfinance institution that links impact investors with high-impact Somali micro & small businesses – Kaah International Microfinance Service (KIMS). KIMS delivers Shariah-compliant microfinance across urban areas in Somalia and was recently awarded the Ethical Finance Innovation Challenge & Award (EFICA) by Thomson Reuters and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.

KIMS has grown rapidly from its first branch in Somaliland and now covers most of the country, with 11 branches in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central with a cumulative loan portfolio of $8 million that has supported 8,500 micro and small businesses since its launch in 2014. Customers each receive financing of between $1,000 and $10,000, with portfolio-at-risk rates under 2%. This is in line with international standards despite a challenging and changing security situation in the country.
The origins of KIMS are also unique, being launched as a social enterprise with support from Kaah Express, a money transfer business based in Dubai which helps the Somali diaspora to support family at home via remittances. Although the remittance business has developed a wide connection between Somalis and the financial sector, the degree of financial inclusion was shallow since few sources of Shariah-compliant financing were available to micro and small businesses before KIMS launched.
Prior to KIMS’ launch, it conducted a survey of small and micro businesses and found that fewer than 5% had regular access to formal enterprise financing. The unmet need for finance is at least 250,000 and perhaps upwards of 1 million micro and small businesses, which would represent hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, if the financing was available. Until today, KIMS has been financed through donor financing, cash and in-kind support from Kaah and some zero percent loans from philanthropic sources, but it has an ambitious plan to raise $25 million from Islamic social investors and others who are willing to provide financing to KIMS on Shari’ah compliant terms (equity or profit-and-loss sharing) to support continued growth.
Listen to the full interview with Justin Sykes to find out how KIMS has been built to date and how shifting from donor funding to commercial sources can help to expand its social impact.

Minerva – a well-known service provider to private, corporate and fund clients – has recently been working with Innovest on a microfinance intervention in East Africa, focusing on vulnerable but economically active populations.

With the objective to share some of the lessons learned, and to inform its clients about the ethical investment trends, Minerva spoke with our Managing Director, Justin Sykes, about Impact Investing and shared their findings in their article “Impact Investing: making a meaningful difference”.

Innovest’s microfinance client Kaah International Microfinance Institution [KIMS] was recognised by UNHCR in their article and video about the UN Refugee Agency’s support to refugee returnee livilihoods in Somalia. Their publication followed KIMS win of the $100,000 first prize​ at the EFICA Awards last month.

KIMS is Somalia’s only dedicated, privately owned microfinance institution, providing responsible and Shariah compliant financing and micro-savings to Somali micro and small businesses. Since its launch in 2014, they have provided more than $7 million in life-changing financing to over 8,000 Somalis [including refugee returnees, internally displaced people and groups at risk of leaving the country].

As the implementing partner for the microfinance component of the UNHCR funded project, KIMS was praised for the impact of its programme in giving Somali returnees a chance to rebuild their lives.

Kaah International Microfinance Institution [KIMS] is Somalia’s only dedicated privately owned microfinance institution, providing responsible and Shariah compliant financing and micro-savings to Somali micro and small businesses.

In 2013 the world’s first Ethical Finance Innovation Challenge and Awards was launched to inspire and promote innovative solutions that advance ethics in financial services across the globe.

As KIMS Microfinance has provided more than $7 million in life-changing financing to over 8,000 Somalis [including refugee returnees, IDPs, and groups at risk of leaving the country] since its launch in 2014, they were nominated for the EFICA award.

After a rigorous multi stage process of evaluation – in which over 50 other candidates from 24 countries competed – KIMS presented themselves successfully to EFICA’s Advisory Board, and then managed to beat the UK-based asset management firm Arabesque and Malaysia’s retirement savings fund the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) in the final at the EFICA gala in Dubai this week, taking home the $100,000 first prize. This award recognises KIMS as the institution which provided the ‘most dynamic actionable solution that advance ethics in the world’s financial services’.

KIMS has officially confirmed to be using the $100,000 award to provide life changing training and finance to help 100 refugee returnees start their business projects.

“I praise the organisers of EFICA in promoting ethics and innovation in financial services. Winning this award reflects the growing recognition of the need for long-term market-based solutions in fragile and conflict affected countries. KIMS’ innovative micro and SME financial solutions have enabled at risk populations to become resourceful economic actors, and they will continue to enhance its capabilities and scale its financial service offerings to empower the Somali people to pursue sustainable sources of income.”

– Justin Sykes

Sanne Schouwenburg, Project Manager at Innovest Advisory, was present at the NABC’s Francophone Africa Business (FAB) Forum in Amsterdam to extend our knowledge on and our network in (francophone) Africa. FAB is a unique networking platform which hosted over 100 high-level delegates from Francophone Africa. The third edition of the FAB Forum brought together a large delegation of businesses and public sector officials from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso with a focus on water, energy and logistics. This year the forum included participants from other key French speaking countries like Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea Conakry, Cameroon, Benin and Togo.