Creating an Enabling Environment for SMEs and Investors in East Africa
By Maryem Sáder – Emzingo.
Young entrepreneurs Steven Lee and Roeland Donckers joined forces in January 2016 to establish Iungo capital, the first impact investment fund in East Africa that exclusively provides finance to small and growing businesses stuck in the “missing middle”; that is, businesses that are too large for the microfinance institutions, yet too small for the banks to step in.
iungo capital What they do…
While most impact funds stay away from this type of project because of relatively small finance needs versus high transaction costs, Iungo capital provides a sustainable solution by leveraging the resources, knowledge and networks of local business angels, and bringing in the additionally required capital and support, both pre- and post- investment.
We asked co-founder and managing partner Roeland Donckers a few questions about his experience, as a recipient of the October 2016 Emzingo LeaderSHIFT Award, an award created to recognize the efforts and achievements of purpose-driven responsible leaders.
What is the motivation behind your project?
Despite the fact that we are currently focusing on East Africa (Uganda & Rwanda), the missing middle is a widespread phenomenon that persists in most emerging markets; and so far no commercially viable solution has been found to exclusively address this finance gap.
Nonetheless, our motivation is not just about financial inclusion, but also about stimulating the development of a local capital market (business angels), and about generating income and job opportunities for the millions of households (often smallholders) upstream in the value chains of the companies we look to work with.
Where do you find inspiration?
Every person has the potential to discover their own purpose, and to make, big or small, a contribution to the wellbeing of others. Whether that act of altruism is an expression of ‘selfishness’ at the same time is completely besides the point. “Love thy neighbour like thyself”.
To you, what makes a responsible leader?
“Setting the example” is often stated as an answer to this type of questions, while it might be a little overrated: what works for you is highly context driven, and won’t necessarily have the same effect on someone else. Responsible leadership is more about creating both customized and aligned conditions in which the other person can truly take responsibility for her or his own future, dreams, and ambitions.
Any good advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just go for it. Someone once told me not to try to build a supertanker, but rather launch 10 small boats at the same time. The more boats we all launch, the higher the chances for a supertanker in the end.
And be aware of your ego: although it might serve you to be persistent, watch out it never gets in the way of achieving the true purpose of your endeavour.
About Roeland Donckers:
Roeland Donckers is a serial social entrepreneur with over 13 years of hands-on experience in creating and managing start-ups in emerging markets. He started an impact investment company that built several SMEs from the ground up; began a microfinance company from scratch with a unique rural credit methodology and successfully exited after 5 years; and started and managed a social business providing technical assistance for local entrepreneurs while linking them to alternative end markets. Roeland holds an MBA from IE Business School and a Master in International Relations from Ghent University. He is a Belgian citizen and an Executive Master Candidate in Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics.
About Iungo capital:
Iungo capital is currently raising its first fund of USD 20M, but already has the capital to start investing pre-first close. It has made its first investment in September 2016, and expects to have 6 portfolio companies by the end of the Q1 next year. At the same time, it has set-up iungo xl as a separate entity with its own business model, to prepare pipeline companies to become investment ready, and offer technical assistance to investees in areas beyond the skills and competencies of the average investment team.
Learn more about Iungo Capital here.
About the Emzingo LeaderSHIFT Award
The Emzingo LeaderSHIFT Award™ recognizes the efforts and achievements of purpose-driven responsible leaders, who are aligned to the Emzingo values and committed to responsible business practices that have a positive impact and are sustainable in social, environmental and financial terms.
Learn more about the Award here.