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Nigerian investment firm exceeds US$20m target to support female-led start-ups

The fund aims to invest in women-focused small and growing businesses in Nigeria and Ghana



Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes, founder of Aruwa Capital Management

A Lagos-based impact investment firm has closed its first institutional fund to support female-led businesses and tackle gender inequality.

Aruwa Capital Management has exceeded its initial US$20m target and aims to bridge the investment gap faced by women in Africa.

The fund will invest between US$500k and US$2.5m in women-focused small and growing businesses in Nigeria and Ghana, targeting investments in sectors such as healthcare, fintech, renewable energy and essential consumer goods.

“Having launched the fund in October 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, we are very grateful for the confidence of world-class institutional investors who have put their trust in us and share our vision for the continent: generating superior returns, while having a significant socioeconomic development impact in the countries we invest in,” said Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes, founder of Aruwa Capital Management and ex-JP Morgan banker.

“We are also delighted to have been able to mobilise 30 per cent of our fund from local investors, who have a first-hand understanding of the operating terrain, as well as mobilising global capital from well-respected names, a trend we hope to see continue.”

She added: “We are excited to continue showcasing women’s untapped potential in society through our investment portfolio at Aruwa Capital.

“Global data has shown that investing with a gender lens improves financial returns as well as providing a multiplier effect for social impact in local communities due to the role women play. We look forward to showcasing this in Africa specifically.”

Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes founded Aruwa Capital Management in 2019 when she started to address the investment gap women-led enterprises face in Africa.

According to the firm’s research, women comprise 40 per cent of all small and medium enterprises (SMEs) yet receive only one per cent of start-up capital due to the region’s lack of female capital allocators.

“The fund aims to create more sustainable and scalable pathways for economic growth and inclusion in the region,” the founder explained.

To date, the fund has made six investments, committing over 45 per cent of its capital into a diversified portfolio of growing companies.

Its first institutional and anchor investor is Visa Foundation, followed by other investors such as Mastercard Foundation Africa Growth Fund, Nyala Venture, backed by Financial Sector Deepening Africa Investments and other family businesses from Africa, Europe and the US.

Najada Kumbuli, head of investments at Visa Foundation, said: “We are pleased to be the first institutional investor in Aruwa Capital Management.

“We deeply believe that to address the financing gap women-led small businesses face, we need to empower and invest in more women-led investment funds like Aruwa.

“We were impressed by Adesuwa’s track record and approach to tailoring the fund’s financing to small business needs. We believe the team’s deep commitment to driving equitable and inclusive economic growth through investments will support the business owners and their communities.”

Sam Akyianu, chief of party at the Mastercard Foundation Africa Growth Fund, said: “We selected Aruwa Capital as one of our first investments because we were impressed by the team’s grit, conviction and depth of analysis, their value addition for early-growth stage SMEs in Nigeria and their commitment to driving impact for women and youth.

“We look forward to working with the team to help make Aruwa Capital a success story.”

Relatively few African women are turning new businesses into established ones.

Data suggests that limited business networks put women at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to growing a company, as they are less likely to have access to investor networks, know other entrepreneurs or invest in businesses.

A study from the African Development Bank Group found that women entrepreneurs’ perceptions about their business credit-worthiness contributes to the large gender financing gap in Africa, particularly in the north of the continent.



Start-up launches London Underground campaign to break down period stigma

The two-week campaign seeks to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstrual health



The Irish women’s health start-up Riley has launched an ad campaign on the London Underground to “take the fear out of periods”.

Riley, an eco-friendly period product subscription service, aims to take action against period poverty and democratise access to period products.

The company seeks to encourage the introduction of menstrual health policies and foster a workplace where discussions around periods are normalised.

Its two-week London Underground campaign, which coincides with the opening of its first office in London, is hoped to help destigmatise periods and normalise conversations around menstrual health.

“The idea behind this campaign comes from the fact that free period care in the office is often seen as an employee perk or a ‘nice to have’, when it should actually be an essential offering in every office,” Meaghan Droney, eCommerce manager at Riley, told Femtech World.

“Our aim with this campaign is to flip those current mindsets and get people to change their attitudes towards period care in the workplace.

“With 79 per cent of menstruators feeling unsupported in relation to their periods at work, this oversight is clearly fundamentally unfair and it’s time for change.

“We’re encouraging any and all businesses to get in touch with us so we can support them in introducing menstrual policies and free period care in their workplace to empower all employees, no matter their gender, to thrive and feel valued at work.”

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that only 12 per cent of UK companies provide support for menstruation and menstrual health, despite 85 per cent of women experiencing stress or anxiety when managing their period at work.

Data suggests that half of the women who take absence because of their menstrual cycle feel unable to tell their manager, underscoring the deep-rooted stigma around periods.

Fiona Parfrey, co-founder of Riley, said: “Access to safe and high-quality sustainable period care products not only demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare but also fosters a culture of empathy, equality, and respect, ultimately contributing to a more engaged and empowered workforce.

“Menstrual policies and free period care are a fundamental necessity for every individual in the workplace. It’s about ensuring that employees have the resources they need to maintain their wellbeing and productivity without interruption.”

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Singapore-based fertility centre sets up grant for couples struggling to conceive

This grant aims to support eligible Singaporean couples facing financial and family planning challenges



A Singapore-based fertility centre is to set up a grant to support couples struggling to conceive.

Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore (VFCS) announced that it would set up a grant to support aspiring parents on their IVF journey.

The initial grant is set for at $50,000 SGD and, depending on the take-up rate over the next 12 fiscal months, VFCS plans to increase the pool to benefit more couples in the subsequent years.

The grant will cover the main costs associated with IVF treatments and procedures, including embryo retrieval and transfer, laboratory services and embryo prep. It will also be applicable to fresh and frozen egg transfers.

As grant recipients, their samples will similarly be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, a service VFCS provides for all its patients. It locks the patient’s identity with the respective sample. The RFID identifies gametes—eggs, sperms, or embryos—at every stage of the IVF treatment.

According to VFCS, the grant will also include access to counselling services and wellness resources.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional toll and occasional frustration that infertility can take on individuals and couples, especially for some who are still young and healthy,” said Dr Roland Chieng, medical director at VFCS.

“The common deterrent of going for fertility treatment is always associated with the cost, more so in a private care setting where their only source of funds is through Medisave.

“By alleviating their financial concerns, we hope ReadyBaby Fertility Grant empowers patients to approach their IVF journey, focusing on their clinical needs and working towards a healthy pregnancy and less on financials.

“With access to the necessary treatments and support, patients can embark on their path to parenthood with renewed confidence, knowing they have the clinical resources and guidance they need to navigate this journey,” he added.

Tim Kwan, VFCS’s managing director, said: “We believe every couple deserves the opportunity to experience the profound joy of parenthood.

“With the ReadyBaby Fertility Grant, we aim to support aspiring couples on their IVF journey and help them bring new life into the world.”

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be married Singaporean couples diagnosed with medical infertility by a fertility specialist and first-time parents who have not tried IVF before.

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Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform



Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

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