Family Foundation Partners to Unlock AAA's Scale

By: 200 Millison Artisans

The Opportunity for Impact

All Across Africa (AAA) is a B Corp that creates market-driven employment opportunities for women artisans in rural Africa. 6,300+ artisans — 98% of whom are women — across Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania are provided with resources including education, training, materials, and finance programs to produce high quality handmade products for home décor and accessories markets in the US and Europe.

Much like in India, women are the backbone of the rural economy in Africa but have limited access to economic opportunity and activity. AAA has empowered rural women artisans in Africa to become the breadwinners of their families, supporting a combined 35,340 dependents. The artisans also boost the local economy — 550 material sourcing jobs and 9,300 secondary jobs have been created within local communities.

The Investment Model

Ceniarth is a private, family office focussed on impact-first investing to improve livelihoods in marginalised and vulnerable communities globally. Ceniarth invests in sectors such as financial inclusion, agriculture, SME finance, affordable housing, and energy access.

Ceniarth had a revolving credit facility in place with All Across Africa for several years, starting in early 2019. AAA could draw on this facility upon receipt of a confirmed purchase order from a pre-approved list of retailers in order to cover production costs associated with that order. AAA would then repay the Ceniarth facility after receiving payment from the retailer, which usually occurred 30 days after the order was shipped. When COVID first struck, AAA experienced a dramatic decrease in orders from its usual customers. In an effort to support AAA’s artisans and preserve the overall impact of the organisation, Ceniarth collaborated with AAA to modify its facility and fund a general inventory build that was not tied to a confirmed purchase order. With this advance, AAA was able to get income flowing back to weavers and maintain its impact in communities across Africa. Furthermore, AAA successfully sold all the inventory financed through this advance and ultimately finished the year with double the revenue projected in an April 2020 forecast.  

Opportunities to Unlock Scale

100% of Ceniarth’s new investments are impact-first. For Ceniarth, this means transactions that tend to have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Providing early, pilot debt to select enterprises working with vulnerable communities
  2. Providing the right, lower cost of capital where it is required to serve a high impact population
  3. Unlocking multiples of capital via a subordinate, impact-first position
  4. Seeking out specialised, high impact fund mandates including first-time fund managers

By prioritising impact-first investment, Ceniarth’s goal is to scale impact by supporting funds and enterprises that would otherwise have limited capital. In one instance, Ceniarth partnered with other investors to commit a $20 million subordinated debt facility to One Acre Fund to help the organisation unlock $40 million of senior capital. In another example, Ceniarth took a position in the subordinated tranche of Global Partnerships’ Impact First Development Fund, helping to unlock a $50 million anchor investment. By taking a subordinate position, Ceniarth helped to catalyse multiples of additional capital, therefore enabling organisations to dramatically increase the scale of their impact.

Takeaways for Catalytic Capitalists

Ceniarth’s approach to catalytic capital is to take measured risk to create opportunities for third party investment that would not otherwise occur. They are also able to preserve and recycle capital through their investment strategy. Due to this, impact-oriented enterprises can overcome significant barriers in accessing capital, maximising their impact across the globe.