Nigerian gender lens fund wins impact investor of the year award


Claudia Cahalane


An impact fund that was set up by a 29-year-old woman and has generated 700 jobs, mainly for women in areas such as fintech, has won the Nigerian Impact Investor of the Year award for 2023. 

Aruwa Capital Management, which helps grow businesses in the healthcare, essential consumer goods, fintech and renewable energy sectors, picked up the award at the 6th Annual Convening on Impact Investing, 2 November. 

The early-stage growth equity and gender lens fund (focused on addressing gender issues or promoting gender equality) offers sums from $500,000 to $2.5million USD to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Nigeria and Ghana. More than 60% of them are led by women. The fund has supported nearly 97,000 jobs directly or indirectly and the SMEs it supports have generated $25.5 million USD total revenue (figures released by the business).

Gender lens fund oversubscribed

Aruwa was set up by a 29-year-old Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes who had spent more than a decade working in equity and investment at organisations such as J.P. Morgan. In 2022, it closed its first fund – Fund I – with an over-subscribed $20 million USD. 

A group of people smile infront of the sign 'Aruwa', founder Rhodes is pictured, wearing a suit.

Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes, founder of Aruwa Capital (third from right)

To date, the Lagos-based fund has made nine investments into a diversified portfolio of rapidly growing companies in different areas. These include Koolboks, a renewable energy refrigeration and freezer company for off grid areas, supporting the ability to supply vaccinations, and AgroEknor International, a fast-growing non-GMO hibiscus flower exporter and wellness brand founded in 2013 with fair trade principles. 

Speaking about the award, a spokesperson for Aruwa said:We believe in the power of the seamless intersection of strong financial returns and impact. Our intentional gender lens strategy, combined with our growth-equity strategy for underserved SMEs reflects this commitment. This recognition is a testament to our unwavering commitment to spearheading impact investment in a transformative way.’ 

Local impact investors in Nigeria

The focus of the fund is to provide growth capital to untapped indigenous businesses with an operating history and proven track record. While such businesses comprise 40 percent of all SMEs in the area, Rhodes says they receive only one percent of startup capital due to the lack of women capital allocators in the region. 

Image shows that more than 96,000 jobs have been supported by Aruwa. Among other statistics about the company's impact.

Aruwa’s impact so far: Nearly 97,000 jobs created directly and indirectly (700 directly) and $25.5 million USD total revenue generated by the SMEs supported.

Investors in the fund include local and international organisations – the Visa Foundation and the Mastercard Foundation Africa Growth Fund, as well as Nyala Venture, backed by Financial Sector Deepening Africa Investments and leading family businesses from Africa, Europe and the United States.  

Rhodes said: ‘We are very grateful for the confidence of world class institutional investors who have put their trust in us and share our vision for the continent: generating superior returns, whilst having a significant socioeconomic development impact in the countries we invest in. 

We are also delighted to have been able to mobilise 30% of our Fund from local investors, who have a first-hand understanding of the operating terrain, as well as mobilising global capital from well respected names, a trend we hope to see continue. 

Investing with a gender lens improves financial returns

Global data has shown that investing with a gender lens improves financial returns as well as providing a multiplier effect for social impact in local communities due to the role women play. We look forward to showcasing this in Africa specifically.’

Aruwa is currently fundraising for its $40-50m Fund II which will have the same intentional gender lens approach in West Africa. 

The business collected its award at the annual impact investing event organised by the ImpactInvestors Foundation and the Nigerian National Advisory Board for Impact Investing. 


Claudia Cahalane is Investments Editor at Alliance

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