Following the completion of due diligence on organizations in Pakistan and Egypt in July of last year, Acumen Fund launched its newest portfolio, Economic and Civic Enterprise, on 10 November.
The aim of the portfolio is to support entrepreneurs in Egypt and Pakistan who provide economic opportunity and voice to the poor. It will be managed by Asad Azfar, who joins Acumen Fund from the Harvard Business School and who previously worked with the Aga Khan Foundation. It has so far raised over $1 million from individuals and foundations and hopes shortly to double that figure. The portfolio’s first three investments are in:
- a for-profit organic agricultural business in Egypt that provides training and long-term supplier contracts to small and medium farmers as well as health, education and cultural services;
- a non-profit women’s microfinance institution in Lahore, Pakistan, to enable the organization to increase the number of women to whom it lends from 17,000 to more than 40,000;
- a local, financially sustainable non-profit providing low-cost housing and public utilities to 40,000 squatters in Karachi, Pakistan.
Acumen’s initial portfolio, Health Technology Changing Lives, launched in December 2001, invests in organizations and innovators that radically lower the costs of and barriers to healthcare for the underserved majority in Africa and South Asia. Among the initiatives it is supporting are the production of an affordable hearing aid; the establishment of a telemedicine network in the hospitals of Aravind; and the production of low-cost malaria bednets. Acumen is also involved in the design of a prototype for a low-cost disease detection platform.
Acumen Fund was created in April 2001 with investments from Cisco Systems and Cisco Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation and individual investors. It is a non-profit organization which links philanthropists with initiatives, whether in the for-profit or non-profit sector, which offer potential solutions to some key contemporary problems. Through its network of connections, Acumen also provides them with technical assistance. Portfolio managers monitor results and report regularly to investors.
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