Acumen Fund Announces Inaugural Class of East Africa Fellows

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Year-Long Fellowship Program Addresses East Africa’s Social Sector Talent Gap with Mentorship and Leadership Training

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These Fellows will learn not only financial and operational skills, but the impact of real and lasting moral leadership.

Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture firm addressing poverty in South Asia and East Africa, announced its inaugural class of East Africa Fellows today. Building off the success of Acumen’s well-established Global Fellows Program, the East Africa Fellows Program shares a similar goal of addressing the talent gap in the social sector by providing world-class leadership training for young entrepreneurs and others who are managing groundbreaking projects with large social impact in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

Acumen Fund has invested over $17 million USD in East Africa since 2001, focusing on a wide range of sustainable, scalable businesses—in agriculture, housing, health, water and energy—that use market-based approaches to deliver products and services to millions of rural and urban poor. Recent additions to Acumen Fund East Africa’s portfolio include Juhudi Kilimo Company Limited (Juhudi Kilimo), a Kenyan microfinance company that provides loan products to smallholder farmers for productive agricultural assets, and Gulu Agricultural Development Company (GADC), a for-profit cotton ginning company in Uganda.

Acumen Fund selected 20 out of 538 extraordinary applicants to join the first class of participants. “Despite the hundreds of non-governmental organizations and the continued outpouring of foreign aid, East Africa remains as a region overwhelmed by extreme poverty. With this inaugural class of East Africa Fellows, we are investing in the next generation of global leaders, providing them with the tools and training necessary to cultivate innovative solutions and to address the challenges of poverty in their communities and beyond,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen Fund. “These Fellows will learn not only financial and operational skills, but the impact of real and lasting moral leadership.”

The inaugural class of East Africa Fellows represents the emerging talent in the region. Professionally, their backgrounds are diverse, from C-level executives of local renewable energy companies, such as Nuru Energy and Renewable Energy Ventures, and managing directors and chief accountants at financial institutions like Milango and Juhudi Kilimo, to entrepreneurs that have founded their own organizations focusing on education and youth empowerment, like Kuweni Serious, an online platform that focuses on creating a corps of everyday changemakers among young, educated, middle class Kenyans.

Acumen Fund partnered with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), the Bank’s Foundation and the Edmund De Rothschild Foundation to make the East Africa Fellows Program possible. “KCB would like to congratulate the 20 fellows who were selected for the East Africa Fellows Program,” said Martin Oduor Otieno, CEO, KCB Group. “As the leading bank in East Africa, we believe in nurturing leadership, embracing corporate responsibility, and upholding the dignity of communities impacted by our operations. The training offered during this program will have a demonstrable impact on the communities and stakeholders where the Fellows’ initiatives are implemented.”

Firoz Ladak, Executive Director of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations remarked, “The East Africa Fellows program reflects our endeavour to find and harness the amazing potential of social entrepreneurs worldwide, whom we view as both poets and farmers; indeed, social entrepreneurs have to be dreamers and visionaries like poets, while demonstrating the pragmatic wisdom of farmers who day after day work on livelihood and sustainability. We could not have expected a better cohort than this new class of 2011 and the quality of our partnership with KCB and Acumen.”

The year-long program is comprised of five multiday seminars, where Fellows will have one-on-one access to acclaimed speakers, trainers and mentors, and take one regional trip to learn more about varying models of social change in other countries. The program culminates with an innovation conference, when Fellows will have the opportunity to showcase all that they’ve learned, their ideas on new initiatives and ways they can further enhance their current projects and organizations.

Qualifications required for the East Africa Fellows Program include a proven track record of leadership and management responsibilities, experience driving a compelling project with significant social impact for at least 2-3 years, deep passion and commitment to the East African region, unrelenting perseverance, personal integrity, and critical thinking skills.

More information about the 2011 East Africa Fellows may be found on Acumen Fund’s website,, and on its blog, The application process for the 2013 class of East Africa Fellows Program will open in March 2012.

About Acumen Fund
Acumen Fund is a pioneering not-for-profit venture fund that is changing how the world addresses poverty. Acumen Fund invests patient capital in business models that deliver critical, affordable goods and services to the world’s poor, improving the lives of millions. Since its founding in 2001, Acumen Fund has invested more than $40 million in companies that provide access to water, health, energy, housing and agriculture inputs to low-income consumers in South Asia and East Africa. For more information on Acumen Fund’s activities and investments, visit and

Acumen Fund in East Africa
Acumen Fund has been investing in East Africa since 2001, focusing on a wide range of sustainable, scalable businesses that use market-based approaches to deliver products and services to millions of rural and urban poor. Investments made by Acumen Fund East Africa in local enterprises include a manufacturer of insecticide-treated bednets that are providing protection against malaria to millions of Africans; public sanitation facilities in Kenya’s underserved urban centers; microfranchises for quality healthcare and drug distribution; and a microfinance institution that is creating affordable, legal housing for former slum-dwellers. Leveraging strong relationships with local academic institutions and businesses as well as the global Acumen Fund network, Acumen Fund East Africa is actively exploring further investments in healthcare services, as well as potential investments in housing and energy services.


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