Ascent Capital Africa is the exclusive fund manager to the Ascent Rift Valley Fund, which invests in promising small and medium-sized enterprises across Eastern Africa including Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. We invested in Ascent’s first fund in 2014 and have been working with them to introduce good international industry practice on environmental and social standards across its portfolio companies.
How we support Ascent Capital Africa
Marieke Geurts, an Investment Director at Ascent, leads on their ESG work. She has been working with our Environmental and Social Responsibility team since we first invested four years ago: “My background is in investing and when CDC came on board, I had limited ESG knowledge. Working with CDC has really helped develop my understanding, particularly when it comes to carrying out due diligence and putting into place Environmental and Social Action Plans and supporting portfolio companies in their development.”
As this was Ascent’s first fund, our support played an important role in defining the fund’s whole approach to sustainability, Marieke says: “The first main impact was CDC helped us define our policies on environmental and social governance. Both the Ascent team and representatives from the Fund’s investee companies attended training sessions in Kenya, which we took a lot from.”
The Ascent team – along with representatives from the fund’s investee companies – attended training sessions in Kenya. One of the sessions Marieke attended formed the basis for how Ascent now incorporates ESG considerations into their investment process.
“We really used that training to set up a template for how we look at environmental and social considerations at screening, during due diligence, and also when we’re monitoring investments.”
Marieke Geurts, Investment Director Ascent
We also provide regular feedback on their ESG work, as well as one-to-one meetings where we discuss environmental and social challenges, and how they can be overcome.
Our impact so far
According to Marieke, our support has had a big impact on Ascent’s portfolio companies: “The Ascent Rift Valley Fund invests in SMEs and a lot of them are family-owned manufacturing entities, which previously haven’t had much to do with ESG. So, we support them in implementing processes, hiring ESG and HR Managers, and making sure they implement the right programmes in areas like resource efficiency, waste management and occupational health and safety.”
As our relationship with Ascent continues to develop, we’re looking to work with Marieke and her team in new ways. Marieke says this approach makes CDC stand out as an investor.
“The biggest difference with CDC and other investors is how they are active in setting strategies for the next topics we are going to work on, then building the knowledge base around it. For example, now on gender, CDC is the first LP to come to us with a strategy on that, which we plan to implement.”
Marieke Geurts, Investment Director, Ascent