Uganda’s 97Fund announces 1st investments from COVID-focused relief vehicle

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The Uganda-based 97Fund, a US$1 million COVID-19 Relief Fund launched to invest in solutions targeting and addressing challenges caused by the pandemic and solutions that prepare Uganda for a post-COVID-19 environment, has announced its first investments.

Disrupt Africa reported last month on the 97Fund, which is managed by Ortus Africa Capital in partnership with The Innovation Village and supported by Mastercard Foundation under the Young Africa Works Program.

A blended capital early-stage fund, it invests in high-growth, early-stage companies in Africa, and is targeting companies that are responding to the pandemic while creating jobs, in areas such as providing healthcare services, re-imagining business models in sectors like tourism, education and finance, and new ways of working.

In the first raft of investments, a total of US$127,492 has been invested across 10 companies. Five of those are providing solutions addressing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, four companies targeting the Future of Work, and one digitising the tourism value chain sector.

They are Bringo Fresh, an e-commerce platform that helps Ugandan farmers sell their fresh produce, which has secured US$10,000; Famunera, which links smallholder farmers to quality, affordable inputs and has banked US$10,000; web-based laboratory management system Med X International, which has raised US$10,000; grocery e-commerce platform Minute5, which has secured US$7,850, and e-commerce and financial services business Xente, which takes home US$14,642.

These five companies will also receive monitoring and venture building support for a period of three months. They are added to the 97Fund portfolio, which also includes companies funded under previous initiatives The Future of Work and Gamechangers. They are freelance marketplace Flip Africa; waste-to-feed company Marula Agribusiness; internships platform ProInterns; travel marketplace Tubayo; and tourism operator platform Tripxio, each of which secured US$15,000 from the fund.

Kenneth Legesi, managing partner at Ortus Africa Capital, said the fund was intended to support businesses that have the potential to support other businesses and communities in an environment that is otherwise unprecedented. 

“We are very deliberate on this because we expect the companies selected to benefit from the fund to create an ecosystem that helps other companies and communities to survive the pandemic,” he said. 

“Now more than ever, the pandemic has taught us that businesses need to adapt as quickly and as efficiently as possible to find their footing during these unprecedented times of the virus while putting collaboration at the forefront. Ultimately, at the 97Fund, our goal is to grow companies that matter and are centered on solving the biggest industry and community challenges.”

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