Africa Funded Participating in the 2nd Urban Afri Africa Conference

The conference in Johannesburg brings together suppliers, governments, financiers, representatives of small farmers to share expertise, learnings and build new relationships with focus on the African local and export market. Peter Chege of Hydroponics Africa runs a solid business by providing hydroponic technology to low income groups sharing his business model and scaling plans at the Urban Agri Africa Conference in Johannesburg. We are honored to be part of journey of the founder and company in validating, finetuning and scaling of the business.

Aqysta Entering New Markets

Updates from aQysta:

Commercial Director of aQysta, Pratap Thapa was one of the speakers at the opening plenary of the World Water Week 2018 that took place in Stockholm, Sweden from August 26 till August 31. With Honorable Christine Nkulikiyinka, Ambassador for Rwanda to Sweden, leading the panel, Mr. Thapa talked about how Barsha Pump, maintaining the harmony with nature, can solve the water irrigation issues and help farmers save the operating cost (that usually occurs in pumping).
aQysta is thankful towards SWFF for providing us with this great opportunity.

aQysta introduced in Malawi, the very first customer of Barsha pump in Malawi. The Barsha pump will help his Banana plants fight the dry season ahead without any fuel or electricity costs.

aQysta initiated its activities in Malawi this month, with sales and installations are done in partnership with Malawi based social enterprise, Sakaramenta. Two new team members joined aQysta team- Chisomo Kumenda and Kondwani Kathumba.

Next, the team is preparing introduction into the Kenyan market. Africa Funded supports

Part of this article was posted before on the aQysta web site.

Supporting Healthy and Sustainable Diets: How do we get there?

Improving sustainable sourcing and healthy diets will have massive impact in developing countries. Please find below a link to an article on activities on global scale in this area  

Leading experts discussed what action across government, business and civil society can steer us towards healthy and sustainable diets. Spanning technologies, policies and actors, an action agenda that can unlock ambition, increase resources and continue innovation to take steps towards a healthty and sustianble diet was identified. Continue reading

Africa Funded CEO shares start-up support insights at pan-African conference on climate, energy & water

At the Research to Practice Forum 2018 'Energy, water security and climate change in Africa', Africa Funded CEO Saskia Reus-Makkink shared insights in early stage financing and scaling strategies of business models in Africa and Asia.

April 16th to 18th, the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES) brought together over 150 participants from over 40 countries to the conference in Algeria to discuss state of the art and innovative solutions in the areas of renewable energy, water and climate security.

As a key knowledge institution, PAUWES supports the African Union Agenda 2063, the African Union Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA-2024) and  the Africa Water Vision 2025. PAUWES provides platforms for experts, scientists, decision makers, entrepreneurs, private and public sector, policy makers, civil society actors and institutions.

An inspiring opening address was given by Dr. Beatrice Njenga, Head of the Education Division of the African Union Commission Human Resources Sciences and Technology (AUC-HRST). The presentation of Saskia Reus-Makkink of Africa Funded was titled 'Venture Capital, Equity Funds and Business Angels in Africa'.

See some pictures below and get in touch for more info on the PAUWES conference or other Africa Funded presentations.

Saskia Reus at PAUWES2018.jpeg
Saskia Reus in panel at PAUWES2018.jpg
Beatrice Njenga at PAUWES2018.jpeg

Deep dive into the decentralized water business model

Africa Funded manages the seed accelerator program of Aqua for All, a Dutch NGO focusing on increasing access to water (EUR 25 million AUM). Africa Funded’s CEO Saskia Reus managed and co-authored an in-depth study executed by Dalberg to identify opportunities and barriers to scale these companies and the sector.

Safe Water Enterprises (SWEs) provide a modular, decentralised approach to delivering safely treated drinking water in the developing world. SWEs are seen as one of the most scalable solutions to reach access to water (SDG6).

Within the seed accelerator of Aqua for All’s contribute to scaling the water kiosk business models was one of the objectives. Therefor we reached out to partners and bundled forces with like minded investors. The portfolio of these partners includes the 14 leading companies of decentralized water services in developing countries with a reach of 3 mio people. To support acceleration of the individual portfolio companies and the sector, partners bundeld forces and executed a multi client research into their portfolio companies and global developments.

Key findings from the research managed and co-authored by Africa Funded’s CEO Saskia Reus (with Dalberg) can be found here.

Jibu raised 7 million USD!

We congratulate Randy, Galen and the team of water kiosk business Jibu in closing their USD 7 Million USD round! Jibu is one of the 14 companies studied in a new in-depth study managed and co-authored by Africa Funded’s CEO Saskia Reus.

Source: Jibu

The research executed by Dalberg was set up to identify opportunities and barriers to scale Safe Water Enterprises and the sector. Key findings from the research can be found here

The Jibu deal shows there are investable opportunitites in water. A few years ago still “designing a scalable cookie cutter” and now scaling in multiple countries. Read more about the deal here

Scaling Smart Afri Solutions in Kenya

The African food market continues to grow
World Bank estimates showing that it will be worth US$1 trillion by 2030 up from the current US$300 billion. Demand for food is also projected to at least double by 2050. These trends, combined with the continent’s food import bill, estimated at a staggering US$30–50 billion, indicate that an opportunity exists for smallholder farmers—Africa’s largest enterpreneurs by numbers—who already produce 80% of the food we eat to finally transition their enterprises into thriving businesses.

With 90 percent of Kenya being arid or semi-arid land, highly variable rainfall patterns that are even further exacerbated by climate change, and growing number of water-intensive economic and agricultural activities, water management in agriculture is a big challenge in Kenya. At the same time, the country houses immense opportunities for irrigation and agricultural water storage of which only 12% (1.342 million ha) had been developed by the end of 2013. To realise this huge irrigation potential and face the challenges ahead, there is a need to invest in smart water solutions for agriculture.

Smart Water for Agri Kenya
Together with SNV, Meta Meta, KIT and Practica and Aqua for All we support a 4 year 6 mio Eur program, funded by the Dutch government to increase productivity of 20.000 small holder farmers in Kenya. Beside support for individual companies to enter the market we also work on improving the ecosystem engaging with local funders, small holder farmer groups and government to boost the sector. The Smart Water program offers technical expertise, access to customers and high risk funding to boost market uptake of innovative solutions.

By promoting market-led water management solutions, 20.000 farmers will increase their water productivity, to assure their access to water for agricultural production and increase farmers’ incomes. Thereby also increasing food security and improving resilience to climate change.

If you are interested to learn more and want to investigate a potential fit, please visit a special session during the Amsterdam International Water week at Tuesday 31st of October. We'll share markets insights and you can brainstorm with the Kenya based team, technical and business experts about the market fit of your solution. Entrepreneurs can registere here. Note places are limited. This opportunity is focuson on Dutch / Kenya based companies, we also support companies based in other countries as of 2018.

Hydroponics Kenya Secures 850,000 USD to Scale Operations

Hydroponics Kenya pioneered hydroponic farming technology in Africa. It's a quality, cost- effective and sustainable way of farming which saves up to 80% of water used in crop production compared to conventional farming. We supported Hydroponics with a scaling strategy that led to 850,000 funding.

We provided customized business support to Hydroponics during a pilot to test vertical farming in Nairobi. Once the pilot was succesful we providedadvice on scaling strategy after which enabled Peter Chege, the founder, to secure additional funding: Hydroponics received funding of € 500.000 from USAID and 350.000 USD loan from a commercial investor to scale operations.  Peter Chege, Founder & CEO of Hydroponics also shared his feedback:

“We received valuable support to develop and validate our business model. Based on a gap analysis to get ready to scale after a pilot for urban farming, we’ve been advised to investigate a credit/lease model to make the products more affordable.  We developed all inclusive hydroponics services which in turn enabled us to secure a totaling amount of 850.000 USD. Hydroponics Africa could not have attained this milestone were it not for the valuable advice and encouragement of the team.”

Targeted food security and water efficiency results to scale up with the additional resources secured are:
•    2,223 small farmers will increase crop production by using hydroponic units; 
•    16,000 people (mostly poor) will have access to an improved source of food;
•    663,640 liters of water will be saved the coming 3 years.

We congratulate Hydroponics Kenya on the results achieved thus far and looks forward to delivering further support in the upcoming stage to further design and implement the scaling strategy.

President of Kenya impressed by Hydroponics Kenya

Scaling Safe Water Business Model for Sustainable Access to Water

Everyone knows there will be scarcity in water coming decades. Overall lack of access to safe water is not the only challenge. Also the uneven distribution of safe water results in the fact that the poor have currently the highest costs to get safe water and current approaches are unlikely to reach the goal to safe water in 2030.  There is a clear need for new channels and mechanisms at scale.

We are happy to share more insights into the dynamics of providing access to safe water in developing countries. Please find attached the summary and findings of an in-depth study in to 14 safe water enterprises in developing countries. Including Jibu (Africa), 1001 Fontaines (Cambodia), DLO Haiti, Safe Water Network and others. It shares best practices and challenges in the route to scale these ventures.

Our impact theme is creating sustainable jobs in Africa, so people can improve their standard of living. We’ve been asked to accelerate growth in ventures providing safe water. By bundling forces of likeminded funders of this model we spur growth on company and sector level by tapping into joint resources, expertise and knowledge. Funders include: Danone Communities, Stone Family Fund, CN Hilton Foundation, Osprey Family Fund and Aqua for All. 

Early 2017 we handed over the project management of this collaboration to the director of Aqua for All and Danone Communities, to have more time for portfolio management. If you want to connect with this group of funders, please send an email to info

AfricAqua Kenya

Circular economy, providing new business opportunities in developing countries

Circular economy picture.png
Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation, SUN, and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment; Drawing from Braungart & McDonough, Cradle to Cradle (C2C).

In 2016 Africa Funded & Aqua for All were approached by the Toilet Board Coalition to identify opportunities to scale sanitation-related business initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Toilet Board Coalition is a platform of corporates aiming at accelerating business in sanitation initiated by Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, LIXIL and Firmenich. Twenty-four sanitation-oriented companies were screened using the circular economy models to assess their readiness, contextual challenges and opportunities to scale. This screening process, along with looking at the prospective fit with the members of the Toilet Board resulted in the selection of several entrepreneurs to join the Toilet Board Accelerator. We learned a great deal along the way, and have been able to draw some conclusions and useful prescriptions about how best to approach opportunities in the field of sanitation in developing countries.  The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the main conclusions for the benefit of additional stakeholders in the sector that are undertaking similar activities.

{This research has been coordinated by Saskia Reus-Makkink, Founder of Africa Funded and Manager of Aqua for All seed funding accelerator programs. Team members: Christiaan Quellhorst (Senior Business Expert Africa Funded), Jan Spit and Jacqueline Barendse (sanitation experts WASTE) who provided expert insight.}

 Sanitation in the circular economy: a study by Toilet Board Coalition

What do we mean by the ‘circular economy’? The concept of the circular economy is fairly simple – what’s considered waste for one (industry) is treasure to another (industry).  This is absolutely the case in the sanitation business: toilet waste is a resource with potential commercial value.  Sanitation is an industry with significant potential for waste to be transformed from an undesirable expense into a positive contribution in a commercially viable system, generating income, and improving health and environmental conditions.

 The analysis of current business models in turning faecal sludge into valuable resources generated input for two separate reports published by the Toilet Board. One of the reports, entitled “Sanitation in the Circular Economy”, uses the circular economy approach to ‘shine a light’ on sanitation as a significant and largely untapped business opportunity. Hereunder a few highlights of this report. 

In this study, various stakeholders were surveyed: SMEs (small/medium-sized enterprises) involved in sanitation across low income markets, experts from multinational corporations, academics, and specialists from across the “waste” management value chain.  They were asked to respond to the following question: 

Can demand for products derived from toilet waste become strong enough to create self-sustaining, commercially viable sanitation businesses, reducing dependence on public and aid funding, as well as reducing health costs?

Central questions addressed in this study:

·       What products or materials of value can be upcycled from toilet resources?

·       Are there scalable business models to deliver sustainable supply of these products to the market?

·       Is there commercial interest and demand from large industrial operations to become buyers into the system?

Key Findings

The initial inquiry into Sanitation in the Circular Economy with entrepreneurs operating in low income markets, academics, and multinational corporations, has produced six key conclusions to be further explored:

1.     Toilet resources are a major part of the bio-cycle that are mostly unexploited

2.     The Circular Economy could transform sanitation from a costly service to a more self-sustaining and value adding system of resources

3.     There are 3 Circular Economy cycles for sanitation

4.     There are renewable resources available for corporate supply chains today

5.     There are innovative applications for industry in the future

6.     There are significant leapfrog opportunities for low income economies


Toilet waste has value.  Here are a few of the potential resources which can be produced from toilet waste:

·       Green energy: mixed with other biological resources waste can provide a green energy supply in the form of biogas, liquid, or solid fuel, which can be used directly or converted into electricity and heat.

·       Agricultural products: There are rich possibilities for waste to be used in agricultural products – compost, organic fertilizers, and soil conditioners.

·       Potable/Grey water: Fecal matter contains up to 75% water, and urine is 95% water. New technologies are being developed extracting the water, filtering it and producing either potable or processed grey water for use in agriculture, aquaculture or water intensive industrial operations.

·       New applications can use material derived from toilet resources to produce innovative new products and raw materials for use in production of animal feed, plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals. For example, new applications are being developed to neutralize pathogens in fecal sludge.

·       Source of information & health data: waste can be analyzed to provide useful information for health interventions, disease prevention and control of public health.


Further observations from this study:

·       Applying the circular economy model in new contexts usually involves reconfiguring products, supply chains, and business models. An integrated approach to toilet resources (formerly “waste”) should maximize the use of the bio-cycle within the overall economy.

A biological resource system is not only valuable in itself, but enables innovation in the use of biological substitutes for a wide range of plastics/products.

·       Circular Economy business models offer additional sustainability, because one is using something that was previously wasted.  Suppliers may be able to providing ongoing support services rather than making a one-time sale. The models are circular because the supplier is to support long product life, and take responsibility for product at end-of-life. Note that in most western countries sanitation systems are funded by taxes and not profitable businesses by themselves.


Opportunities for multinational corporations and SME’s

We’ve mentioned some of the potential products to be derived from toilet waste, but how is it attractive for investors? In what form? Who can benefit or profit?

The Toilet Board study sees ‘opportunity spaces’ for multinational corporations to invest in sanitation business in order to gain access to a reliable source of raw materials, the volume of which is predictably tied to population (growth).   In this sense, toilet waste is a renewable resource to feed into the supply chains of global and  emerging market operations for certain products (such as in agriculture, and greywater industrial use).  Further, we expect demand for toilet waste to grow as it is used in the R&D of new bio-cycle products which will also require toilet ‘resources’.

For SMEs, the opportunities are to be found in building local holistic biological “waste”/resource systems.   This involves the whole chain - waste collection and treatment, (including addressing currently unmet needs, such as adequate provision and maintenance of toilets), innovation in the creation of biological substitutes in existing products, the creation of new products derived from toilet resources, and producing locally-relevant agricultural products, water and energy.

 We hope to have inspired you to dig deeper into this study.  For the complete report “Sanitation in the Circular Economy” please click here.


Final Call Urban Innovators

Key lesson learned of supporting innovators in Africa for six years now, is that both expertise and risk capital are needed to validate innovative solutions. The upcoming accelerators organized by Africa Funded have a committed capital of 3 mio Eur. One of them focusses on urban solutions (see below). Stay tuned for the announcement of next accelerators via our newsletter.

Africa Funded manages the second edition of the VIA Water Innovation Challenge as part of the final call of this fund. The program focusses validating innovative concepts that will improve urban water issues (including ICT / FinTech / Data / urban agri solutions). For the online accelerator the program team will select the most promising concepts. Participants in the program get access to relevant sector experts (water/sanitation/ICT/agri/etc), participate in online workshops, learn from entrepreneurs in previous cohorts and get access to seasoned Africa focused business and investment professionals, supporting you in fine-tuning your proposal to validate your innovation. Best in class proposals will be selected and supported with access to experts and a max 200.000 Euro grant to pilot the innovation.

Click here to read more and share your teaser before November 7th 2016.

"The accelerator team was always available to answer my questions. Apart from providing me with feedback, they also provided me with inspiration and encouragement throughout entire period of the program”

“They covered all major areas that used to be obstacles to my company growth”.

83% of the participants rated the VIA Water Innovation Challenge as "outstanding", read the full article here


Opportunities to scale in circular economy and mobile solutions - Africa Funded update

Africa Funded investigated opportunities to scale up businesses in sanitation, circular economy and mobile for sanitation. In September it will be announced which ventures will be selected for an accelerator program. 

Africa Funded was recently approached by a group of multinationals to investigate opportunities to scale up sanitation related businesses (fecal sludge to energy / fertilizer / flying foods, "circular economy") and mobile for sanitation business models. The "Toilet Board Coalition" initiative was started by Unilever and consists of like minded members as Kimberly Clark, Lixil, DFID, Firmenich, USAID and others.

Over the last two monts Africa Funded screened 24 companies and investigated readiness to scale, viability of the plans and how co-creation and cross selling opportunities can be mutual beneficial for multinationals and the entrepreneurs implementing innovative business models in developing countries. We tapped into the expertise of our partners Aqua for All (water/sanitation), WASTE (sanitation) and eVentures (mobile/ICT) to fulfill this assignment.

Last week we presented our results in London to the board of the Toilet Board Coalition. In September it will be announced which ventures will be selected for an accelerator program and tap into the expertise, networks and funding opportunities of these mulitnationals to scale their business. 

Also see the Toilet Board Coalition website.

Get Ready for Funding: Opportunities in Urban Water challenges

Connect with us to get feedback from one of the top 10 Africa focused early stage investors on your current business model for urban water issues on Friday August 19th. Most promising solutions will be screened after for support of the VIA Water program. 

Friday, August 19th, investor Vincent Kouwenhoven (director eVentures & eVentures Africa Fund) and Saskia Reus-Makkink (director Africa Funded) are hosting a Free Feedback Friday. Connect with our Skype address (FreeFeedbackFriday) to reserve your slot. Mention: Get ready for funding.

Africa’s rapid urbanization will result in new water management challenges for cities. Over the next 20 years, the urban population of Sub- Saharan Africa will double (UN-Habitat, 2011). This growth will bring opportunities to capitalize on the potential for economic expansion and challenges to avoid the many social problems, such as expanding slums, associated with unplanned urban growth. Effective water management will be critical in preparing cities to face this emerging challenges.

The gap between water demand and water supply is growing. Water demand is increasing at a higher rate than population growth — as income levels of urban dwellers rise and the demands for better services increase—whereas water availability is shrinking due to competing demands from agriculture, mining, and industry and from deteriorating water quality and climate change. Cities also face more flood hazards due to a complex web of land use, solid waste management, drainage, and wastewater management issues. The structure of urban growth in Africa and uncertainties of climate further add to the complexity of the challenges.

African cities must sprint in order to stand still to meet the demands of rapid urban population growth. Solving future urban water challenges is essential for growth and poverty reduction. Cities are the drivers of future economic growth through both the manufacturing and service sectors.

Feedback sessions are open for entrepreneurs with innovative business models focussing on urban water issues. Limited slots available. Selection based on most promising concepts (traction entrepreneur, sound business model) for business modelsaddressing:

  • Equitable and efficient water use in (peri) urban agriculture
  • Sustainable access to drinking water
  • Sustainable access to sanitation
  • More reliable water harvesting and storage
  • Sustainable use of ground water resources
  • Improved quality of water resources and distributed water
  • Good quality data gathering, management and sharing
  • Viable financial arrangements
  • Improved urban planning
  • Preventing and coping with floods, droughts and coastal erosion.

Friday, August 19th, investor Vincent Kouwenhoven (director eVentures & eVentures Africa Fund) and Saskia Reus-Makkink (director Africa Funded) are hosting a Free Feedback Friday session. Connect with our Skype address (FreeFeedbackFriday) to reserve your slot. Mention: Get ready for funding. Read more about Free Feedback Fridays.

Lease & Buy business models for Water & Sanitation solutions

If Lease & Buy could help you penetrating developing markets with water related solutions, discuss your ideas with Sjef Ernes (Director of Aqua for All) and Saskia Reus-Makkink (Founder and CEO of Africa Funded and Manager of Aqua for All's incubator program) at a new Free Feedback Friday.

For technology providers, lease & buy constructions might be a way to enter developing markets. When leasing a car or renting a heater, pre-financing a house or leasing installations for industrial use is common sense in Europe, then why not lease (or lease-buy) your technology to local service providers in Africa? Why should we not apply this to water and sanitation solutions? With revenues from a secured period of time (3-5 years) in maintenance, repair and spare parts. And local partners who know to scale the applications , having their network to users, clients, governmental agencies and funders.

Enable potential customers to afford your technology with new finance concepts, while creating partnerships for further market extensions. In Kenya lease and buy constructions are already used to lease boreholes with integrated technology for operation and maintenance and transfer of the facility to operators. Connect with Sjef Ernes (Director Aqua for All) on September 16th to brainstorm Lease and Buy solutions. 

Connect with Sjef Ernes (Director Aqua for All) on September 16th to brainstorm Lease and Buy solutions. Connect with our Skype address (FreeFeedbackFriday) to reserve your slot. Mention: Lease & Buy. Read more about Free Feedback Fridays.

Ecolodge introduces sustainable building technologies in Zambia

Eco-tourism company Green Safaris recently opened their first lodge, Ila Safari Lodge, in the Kafue National Park in Zambia. We had a chance to catch up with founder and investor Vincent Kouwenhoven, with whom we’re currently also working together as Africa Funded.  


Vincent Kouwenhoven, a venture capitalist focused on investing in mobile internet companies across Africa, calls his sustainable tourism investing "my most passionable side project", as it is one he is very involved in. With seven years of safari business experience it became his mission to create lodges with as low as possible impact on the environment.

In Zambia's Kafue National Park Vincent Kouwenhoven initially sponsored a number of other lodges and operations. Eventually he decided to found Green Safaris, focusing on deploying sustainable technology to reduce the footprint of tourism, whilst aiming to deliver inspiring safari experiences.

Electric land rover, CO2 neutral lodge

As a first initiative Green Safaris originally developed the eLandy, the first electric land rover game drive vehicle in the world as far as the team ascertain. "This was the start of thinking of becoming greener and greener", Vincent Kouwenhoven explains. "We simply took the traditional engine out of a land rover vehicle and replaced it with an electrical engine, using batteries instead of burning a lot of diesel." Using solar power to recharge the batteries, the eLandy completely functions on solar power, and is made for ‘silent safaris’ without any emissions or noise pollution. The silence enables the vehicle to approach animals with minimal disturbance, a potential revolution in the safari industry. A team of Dutch engineers developed the eLandy and Green Safaris plans to expand their vehicle fleet in the coming years.

Two years ago the Green Safaris team thought about building a lodge that would be CO2 neutral in every aspect, taking their activities further than the electric car. This year Green Safaris’ first lodge is launched: the Ila Safari Lodge, a high-end eco-lodge. The lodge is set on the banks of the river in the heart of Kafue National Park, Zambia. Kafue National Park (KNP) is the largest and oldest park in Zambia and the third largest park in Africa, home to over 500 different species of animals and birds. The lodge is located 265 kilometers from Zambia’s capital Lusaka (a 3.5 hours drive or a quick flight).

Vincent Kouwenhoven explains: “A country like Zambia, where the economy is very dependent on copper as their core mineral, benefits a lot from increases in tourism, but tourism can have disastrous effects on the environment too. By using a specific setup, architecture and operation, we aim for minimal ecological impact. And if the lodge ever closes down, let’s say fifty years from now, it should look like the lodge has never been there. Everything has to be completely recyclable and with minimal impact.”

What makes the Ila Safari Lodge sustainable?

Various sustainable technologies are used in the Ila Safari Lodge. Solar power is used to generate electricity and to heat and pump water. Waste is fermented to generate biogas, which is used to generate gas for cooking. Electronic vehicles and boats are used. The total operation will become carbon neutral.

For the construction eco-friendly building techniques and principles were used too, such as a revolutionary method of sandbag building, combined with canvas tents. The lodge is built predominantly with materials from the direct surroundings. "Building a lodge in a park usually asks for many truck loads of bricks from a near town”, Vincent Kouwenhoven explains. “The first thing I thought was: can we use materials that are available in our own vicinity?” This led to a sand bag building method: “Instead of driving in tons of truckloads of material we only drove in one van with empty bags and dug a sand pit a couple of kilometers from the building site.”

Also the food served in the lodge is locally sourced. “We set up a site outside the national park where we grow our own vegetables - again to prevent that we have to drive 265 kilometers on a daily basis to get the necessary produce and to create employment in the vicinity of the farm,” Vincent Kouwenhoven explains.

Apart from the eLandy electrical vehicle, an electrical boat (‘eBoat’) was developed, the first of its kind in Zambia. This silent, peaceful and eco-friendly boat was developed by a South African company called Freedom Won, and built by a company called Aliboats. 

The lodge building construction

The lodge building features ten luxury safari tents, each on their own wooden deck, and a central 'boma' building with facilities like a modern pool, an open air restaurant, bar and lounge, a boat jetty, a fireplace and a firepit area for after dinner gatherings - all with a view over the river. All large original trees on the site have been incorporated into the building. All of the ten tents have been individually designed to the surroundings and two larger family suites are included. All the tents feature en suite bathrooms, outside showers or baths and other conveniences. The tented camp style of building leaves no permanent footprint.  

The main 'boma' is built from locally sourced materials and using an eco-friendly sandbag building method. Sandbag building is a process where by sandbags are filled with earth or sand and used as the core of the main building structure. Over this is a thin layer of plaster for finishing purposes.

Social impact

“We employed fifty to sixty employees from the start”, says Vincent Kouwenhoven. “During construction phases we had about eighty people employed for the last eight to nine months. Fully operational the 24 bedded lodge will employ fifty to sixty people, for rural remote areas in Zambia that’s quite something”. Using an integrated training program, Green Safaris trains en employs local people many of whom have not previously been employed in the service industry.

Green Safaris has also chosen to be certified - by environmental management company Heritage, specialising in independent review and certification of environmental performance across the services sector. “Once our goals have been achieved and are functioning within Zambia we plan to expand our business and vision into neighboring countries”, says the Green Safaris team.

See the Green Safaris website and Facebook Page for more info on this company.  

Friday, August 19th, Africa Funded is hosting a Free Feedback Friday (FFF) session with Vincent Kouwenhoven (eVentures) and Saskia Reus-Makkink (Africa Funded). Connect with our Skype address (FreeFeedbackFriday) to reserve your slot. Mention: Mobile.

Key lessons to boost circular economy business models in emerging markets

Saskia Reus-Makkink, Founder and CEO of Africa Funded, shares some insights on circular economy business models. 

As a leading incubation and seed fund managing company, Africa Funded increasingly supports innovative emerging market entrepreneurs with circular economy business models.

In the ‘circular economy’, the central aim is achieving systems without waste and/or pollution, from the perspective that the regular, linear 'take–make­–dispose' model wastes large amounts of materials, energy and labor. In the circular economy the aim is to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value throughout product life cycles of use and reuse. Two material flows are distinguished: biological cycles, reentering the biosphere safely, and technical cycles, designed to circulate back into production systems at high quality.

Many opportunities exist in developing market sectors related to circular economy principles. And in many areas emerging markets can also benefit from advantages over industrialized countries.

Examples from Africa Funded

Africa Funded cooperates with more and more companies building expertise in circular economy business models. With the emergence of the circular economy new service models are coming up. Examples of companies Africa Funded currently works with are Sanivation, Trace and Safi Sana.

Sanivation, based in Kenya, is an example of a company supported by Africa Funded that creates renewable energy out of human and organic waste, sanitizing human waste. The company installs container-based toilets inside people's homes for free, and charge a monthly subscription for waste collection, transforming collected waste into charcoal briquettes. Sanivation recently secured funding for their pilot. Africa Funded supported Sanivation in developing a service model providing their services to landlords and rose farms, providing scaling opportunities for safe sanitation service access in Africa. Currently there is more demand by BBQ restaurants for their charcoal, as it burns longer and has less smoke than traditional charcoal. Africa Funded continues to support the company towards follow on funding.

The company Trace, also supported by Africa Funded, matches solid waste problem in Kenya with demand for construction materials and reduces water pollution issues. Providing waste collection services, Trace recently secured funding for their pilot and recently secured a considerable amount of follow-up funding as well. This summer the entrepreneur will travel to the US for a Mandela Washington Fellowship opportunity ending with a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama in August.  

Both Sanivation and Trace received funding for their business pilots via the Africa Funded supported Incubator for Water, Sanitation and Solid Waste. Both entrepreneurs participated in the VIA Water Innovation Challenge managed by Africa Funded and continue to be supported during their pilots to validate and fine-tune their business models.

Outside inspiration

Next to working with entrepreneurs in Africa and other emerging regions Africa Funded frequently participates in forums on innovation and entrepreneurship around the world. We recently visited an inspirational session hosted by international WASH non-profits VIA Water and IRC. Innovative Dutch architect Thomas Rau spoke on the circular economy, introducing waste as ‘material without identity’ and recycling as ‘giving waste an identity’. Below are three takeaways from this event.

- Get the right answers by inquiring at those who have the best practices in providing the solutions you look for

If you want to limit the steel that is used when constructing a roof of steel and you ask a steel producing company for advice, chances are you’ll not get the best answers, because the business model of whom you ask is to sell steel. You need to ask someone who has the business model of using as less steel as possible when making constructions. Architect Thomas Rau gave the example of asking a rollercoaster producer for advice for this specific example and ending up with a construction reducing steel use with one third.

- Ask open questions, not solutions

When it comes to working out a solution in a specific area of sustainability and you are not the expert, don’t ask for features but try to step back and find the more general question behind the specific question. If you need light, don’t ask for lamps but for light. You might think you need lamps, but that’s where innovation starts. For example, a business model where you pay light per lux is an alternative solution versus buying lamps and paying for the electricity bill. By paying per lux the producer of the light has the incentive to bring down electricity costs. 30% reductions on electricity used were measured by implementing the pay-per-lux model.

- From ownership to stewardship, from production to service models

Companies in the business of selling products often first have to source materials and produce products, then sell them, after which materials again have to be sourced. Instead of selling the products and losing the raw materials, an alternative could be to lease them out while keeping access to the raw materials. This could mean lower depreciation and using products in multiple cycles. Service models provide more stable turnover as compared to product sales. Producers and users can then have a performance contract: maintain, repair, refurbish, reuse… We just have to learn to think in different models.

The circular economy concept clears the way for new business models and growth opportunities for innovative businesses in developing countries. Connect with Saskia Reus-Makkink of Africa Funded for specific questions/support.

Safi Sana: a circular economy company turning liquid and organic waste into valuable products

Safi Sana is a great example of how circular economy business models can unlock the value of human waste. Emerging market companies with business models related to water & sanitation are invited to connect with Africa Funded to assess fit with the seed incubator program for water & sanitation in developing countries.

As 2.4 billion people worldwide lack adequate sanitation, there is a big need for business models that can deliver sanitation at scale. The circular economy concept clears the way for new business models providing access to sanitation in developing countries: unlocking the value of human waste as a resource to address unmet needs. One example is Safi Sana, launched by Aqua for All, providing new platforms for transforming liquid and organic waste into valuable products. Africa Funded will support this company with feedback on their business plan in the context of the Incubator for Water, Sanitation and Solid Waste in partnership with Aqua for All and WASTE.

Solid and liquid waste management is usually a large financial and human burden for (local) governments as well as for the local population in developing countries. In the Safi Sana model, the ‘burden’ of organic waste is transformed into the end-products biogas, organic fertilizer and irrigation water. For Safi Sana ‘high quality waste’ is a key resource and the sourcing activities are an important driver for safe and sustainable sanitation at household level.

The Safi Sana model

The Safi Sana system consists of a resourcing scheme, factory to turn waste into biogas and nutrient-rich waste water and compost, plus a business scheme to allow maximum benefit of these outputs: turning biogas into electricity, and a nursery that uses compost and waste water.

Safi Sana now sells turn-key factories for (peri)urban towns, with a locally embedded waste sourcing and sales organisation for 100% re-use and cost recovery. After turn-key completion, the factory is handed over to a local operator on the basis of a license. The license includes operational support and quality control. Revenue of the factory is made through sale of fertilizer and energy products. 

The model is based on a public/private partnership: the government is the Safi Sana client and makes a one-time investment for the turn-key factory. The private sector is license holder and responsible for operations, sales and recovery of OPEX (with profit).

Ghana and other countries

Safi Sana is building her first platform at scale in Ghana, where waste is a big problem, making the availability of faecal waste very large. Most of the faecal waste in Accra is dumped untreated into the sea, left to clutter sewers or attract rodents. Cost estimates of bad sanitation go as high as 30% of GDP per person above 5 years old and it is estimated to hamper economic growth by 6%. At the same time, Ghana is a net-importer of basic food such as vegetables and rice, as well as fertilizer, and only 8% of the farmers have access to soil nutrients.

As these challenges are not unique to Ghana, Safi Sana believes that once the model is proven in Ghana, there is a great opportunity for expanding in other areas in Ghana and in other countries. Once the model is proven to be financially viable, Safi Sana will focus on delivery and sales of turnkey platforms.


Safi Sana was founded in 2010 as an initiative of Aqua for All, Rabobank, Shell and DHV, who saw potential in creating value out of feacal sludge in order to improve access to safe saniation in developing countries. Financial contributions so far have been made by Aqua for All Foundation, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Energy Ghana, International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC), the African Development Bank and Dutch private investors.

Over the past years, Safi Sana Holding BV has invested €2.5M to test technologies, treatment processes and market conditions for sale of end products and to develop monitoring systems, and educational programs. 

Safi Sana has 3 FTEs In the Netherlands and 12 FTEs in Ghana. The Ghanaian company Safi Sana Ghana Limited was set up to be responsible for the implementation of the project in Ghana. This Ghanaian company is 100% owned by Safi Sana Holding BV, which is 100% owned by Safi Sana Foundation. 

Next steps

Africa Funded supports Safi Sana with feedback sessions to fine-tune their business plan for next steps towards follow-up funding. 
Safi Sana Holding has built expertise on how to transform organic waste into valuable end products while at the same time providing improved sanitation services. Safi Sana’s products and services are project management, support and monitoring, consultancy, research and innovation. The company has high growth ambitions. After knowledge development related to this solution they see unlimited growth opportunities.

Emerging market companies with business models related to water & sanitation are invited to connect with Africa Funded to assess fit with the seed incubator program for water & sanitation in developing countries. 

Africa Funded welcomes new team members

Africa Funded's activities have grown and the organization is currently expanding its team.

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A recent top-level addition to the Africa Funded team is Christiaan Quellhorst, who has in depth and practical knowledge based on many years of corporate experience. Christiaan Quellhorst comes with over 25 years of experience in running international organizations, served at the director level at various multinationals and was the former Vice President of Canon Netherlands responsible for the service and operational part of the company. He strengthens the team in providing advice and act as sparring partner to entrepreneurs in the field of services, business strategy and operational excellence. He is chairman of the board for the Association of Services Management International Netherlands (AFSMI) and organizes service innovation conferences, research and workshops.  

Saskia Reus-Makkink, founder of Africa Funded, shares: “Christiaan provides valuable insights and experience to our entrepreneurs. We see service and pay-per-use models coming up providing access to assets that base of the pyramid consumers could not afford before. Christiaan is a great sparring partner. We see a combination of a commercial visionary plus operational and finance expert as very powerful to support companies from a start-up to scale stage. We are happy to have him as part of the team!”..

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Another valuable addition to the Africa Funded team is Miguel Heilbron. With multiple years of experience in Africa’s startup investment spaces he is keen to highlight the progress made by innovative African startups. Miguel Heilbron has over 15 years of experience in sustainability, social innovation and international development issues in projects in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas, and his experience in incubation and acceleration of startups and social initiatives is very diverse. Saskia Reus-Makkink adds: “Miguel is a great addition for the team in engaging entrepreneurs and stakeholders in our work. He is passionate about improving the entrepreneur ecosystem in developing countries and has an eye for identifying the hidden value in a story of the entrepreneur”.

Business development expert Saskia Reus-Makkink founded Africa Funded to support innovative entrepreneurs to develop, validate and scale their business models. With 15 years of corporate strategy experience, she has been providing feedback on business plans to more than 250 innovative and disruptive entrepreneurs in Africa across all sectors.

Africa Funded is currently working with a large poule of experts to provide customized support to entrepreneurs, supporting them to fine-tune and validate their business models.  

New additions to the Africa Funded team will still be announced. See the team page on our website to get to know the whole Africa Funded team.

Three Africa Funded alumni entrepreneurs receive funding for their pilots

Entrepreneurs Sanivation, Hydroponics and Trace, all based in Kenya, recently received funding for their business pilots. The entrepreneurs participated in the recently finished VIA Water Innovation Challenge managed by Africa Funded. Africa Funded visited the entrepreneurs on site and continues to support them during the pilots to validate and fine-tune their business models.



Sanivation creates renewable energy out of human and organic waste, sanitizing human waste. The company installs container-based toilets inside people's homes for free, and charge a monthly subscription for waste collection, transforming collected waste into charcoal briquettes. Sanivation recently secured funding for their pilot. Africa Funded supported Sanivation in developing a service model providing their services to landlords and rose farms, providing scaling opportunities for safe sanitation service access in Africa. Currently there is more demand by BBQ restaurants for their charcoal, as it burns longer and has less smoke than traditional charcoal. Africa Funded continues to support the company towards follow on funding.

 Sanivation heats the feacal sludge, killing pathogens, in order to process it safely.

Sanivation heats the feacal sludge, killing pathogens, in order to process it safely.



Promoting low cost and sustainable farming without soil, Hydroponics increases access to safely grown food and increases production. Supporting people to build their own low cost, locally sourced hydroponic units, their business model focuses on fertilizer sales. Hydroponics installed 567 hydroponics units and trained over 5,000 people on hydroponics since 2012. Now designing vertical farming for slums to provide nutritious meals and income generation for the poor. Founder Peter Chege is a chemist. Africa Funded supports the team in marketing and strategy.

 Hydroponics efficiently produces animal feeds. With a greenery of 8 by 4 meters, 10 cows are fed continuously.

Hydroponics efficiently produces animal feeds. With a greenery of 8 by 4 meters, 10 cows are fed continuously.



Providing waste collection services, Trace matches solid waste problem in Kenya with demand for construction materials and reduces water pollution issues. Trace recently secured funding. “Saskia is a spot on business adviser,” says Trace founder Kevin Mureithi. “She exceeded our expectations by not only offering critical business tips but also connecting us to a vast network of partners and successful entrepreneurs who we keep learning from.”

 Trace recently purchased new land to construct their new recylcing plant.

Trace recently purchased new land to construct their new recylcing plant.