Ascent Rift Valley Fund I

Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya Other consumer services, Manufacturing, Communications and IT Services, Health

Nairobi-based Ascent Capital is a private equity firm that specialises in growth investments in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in East Africa. Ascent focuses on improving operational efficiencies in consumer driven sectors such the agribusiness, FMCG, financial services, manufacturing, medical services, information technology, energy, and telecommunications sectors. Ascent Rift Valley Fund I is the firm’s maiden fund. The fund aims to provide growth capital to small and medium-sized enterprises in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya.

Our investment

In 2015, CDC invested $15 million in the Ascent Rift Valley Fund, alongside other DFIs, including Austria's OeEB and Norway's Norfund, as well as commercial and institutional investors. It closed at a final fund size of $78 million. The fund provides much-needed growth capital for small businesses in these underinvested countries.

Expected impact

SMEs generate up to 90 per cent of all business activities in East Africa and employ half of the working population, making a significant contribution to the region's economy. However, lack of access to affordable finance and challenging regulatory conditions are a major barrier to trade and innovation. Our investment enables the fund manager to provide finance to support fast-growing and scalable businesses, driving wider business and industrial development, particularly in the agri-processing, healthcare and manufacturing sectors.

Since its launch, the fund has made investments in International Clinical Laboratories (previously Medpharm Holdings), a diagnostic laboratory in Ethiopia; Kisumu Concrete Products in Kenya; and Chims Africa, a mobile money network in Uganda. Several of Chims'agencies are sited near agricultural markets to support smallholder trading; NGOs also use the service to distribute funds in refugee camps in the north of the country.

Environmental and social aspects

We worked closely with the fund manager to develop and implement an Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) for this first-time fund.

Key facts


Since 2012, we’ve only invested in Africa and South Asia. Investments outside these regions are from our pre-2012 portfolio.

Africa, East Africa

We have seven priority sectors. However, we continue to invest outside these sectors, largely in the most challenging regions, as new investment supporting any sector helps to underpin the private sector, and create jobs and livelihoods for people. For funds, the sectors listed here are those the fund has invested in so far.

Communications and IT Services, Health, Manufacturing, Other consumer services
Investment type

We provide capital in three broad ways: direct equity, debt, and intermediated equity (principally through investment funds).

Intermediated investment
Fund manager:
Ascent Capital Africa
Start date

For direct investments, this is the date CDC committed capital to the business or project.

For funds, this is the date that CDC committed capital to the fund.

For underlying fund investments, this is the date that the fund invested capital into the business.e

September 2015

For direct investments, this is the total amount that CDC has committed to the business or project (it may be a combination of equity and debt).

For funds, this is the total amount that CDC has committed to the fund.


This is the investee company’s place of incorporation; or a fund’s jurisdiction.


Investments made by this fund

  • Active
  • Exited
Investment name Country Region Sector Start date Status
Medpharm Holdings Africa Ltd

Holding company for International Clinics Laboratories, the leading provider of laboratory services in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia Africa, East Africa Health February 2015 Active
Chims Africa Ltd

An MTN franchise dealing in the distribution of airtime and phone accessories and is now MTN'S leading mobile money agent

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Uganda Africa, East Africa Communications and IT Services August 2015 Exited
African Queen Uganda Holdings Ltd

African Queen Ltd(AQ) is a privately owned Ugandan company specializing in importing, distributing and marketing high quality products including; Hair Care, Personal Care, Home Care and Foods.

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Uganda Africa, East Africa Other consumer services December 2015 Active
Kisumu Concrete Products

Largest supplier of construction aggregates and the pargest producer of concrete products in Western Kenya

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Kenya Africa, East Africa Manufacturing February 2017 Active
Allcent Global Corporation

Chemical producers and holding company of Allied Chemicals Ltd.

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Ethiopia Africa, East Africa Manufacturing March 2017 Active
Pharmcent Limited (Guardian Healthcare Limited) Uganda Africa, East Africa Health May 2017 Active
Unicent Limited (Universal Plastics Factory Plc) Ethiopia Africa, East Africa Manufacturing May 2017 Active
Auto Springs Mauritius Ltd March 2018 Active
Metroplast Mu Ltd

Metroplast Mu manufactures and trades plastic pipes and fittings.

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Africa, East Africa Manufacturing October 2019 Active