Absolute Barrkee Industries – a Sierra Leonean business manufacturing common wire nails and sanitary paper products – was awarded the US$10,000 prize at an impact investment deal summit organised by Acumen West Africa and Invest Salone on 3 December, demonstrating the promise of local companies to produce much-needed goods while generating impact.
The impact investment summit was a first for Sierra Leone. Acumen and Invest Salone brought together representatives from seven impact investors for the event – Cordaid Investment, Union Trust Bank, the World Bank Accelerator Programme, Open Capital, Solon Capital, CRS Impact Investing and Acumen West Africa.
The deal summit concluded a rigorous seven-week bootcamp designed to help companies fine-tune their business plans and improve their understanding of institutional impact investment. The 11 participating entrepreneurs were chosen for their commitment to driving positive social change in Sierra Leone through their businesses.
CEO and co-founder of Absolute Barrkee Industries, Mohamed Mamadu-Jan Jalloh, pitched an inspirational and compelling business story, which told of his humble beginnings and vision for a Sierra Leonean industrial hub creating thousands of jobs and manufacturing products for consumers in Sierra Leone and regionally. “As a Fulbright Scholar, I had the opportunity to study and live in the USA and enjoy the American dream, but I was too angry about the extreme poverty in Sierra Leone to stay in the States. I see manufacturing as the new frontier for economic and job creation, and Absolute Barrkee Industries is an opportunity for me to make a sustainable contribution to Sierra Leone’s development, while building a profitable company.” He described winning the US$10,000 prize as “validation that we are doing the right thing”.
“Scaling for us means having a greater impact, and the feeling of persuading other people of the value of our business gave us a great sense of winning,” Jalloh said. “I have never pitched for investment before and formulating an investor pitch deck that can be delivered in five minutes was not easy, but the bootcamp was unique in that it helped me crystallise my plans for the future of Absolute Barrkee, as well as reflect on our business’s recent challenges and pinpoint the market opportunity and social impact of our business.”
The summit and bootcamp were developed by Acumen, a learning platform and impact investment firm with existing investments in Sierra Leone. Introducing the event, Meghan Curran, West Africa Director of Acumen, said: “Acumen started investing in Sierra Leone because we saw an opportunity and wanted to be a part of the transition to private sector-led development with a true impact focus. We have met many businesses with real potential, but with no prior experience of raising institutional capital. Today’s impact investment summit is a bridge, a learning opportunity and the beginning of a dialogue between some great Sierra Leonean businesses and potential investors.”
Also speaking at the event was Kobi Bentley, Development Director of the British High Commission in Sierra Leone, who told the audience that supporting greener, cleaner and more productive growth and sustainable economic development is a priority objective for the UK Government in Sierra Leone. She added: “We see this as essential to lifting people out of poverty and laying the foundations for a more resilient, stable, prosperous future. Creating the enabling conditions for greater investment and increased economic diversification is core to this and is a theme of our political, policy and programming engagement in Sierra Leone. In 2019 we set up Invest Salone, which – through its team of experts and range of mechanisms to support businesses – aims to create 370,000 jobs by facilitating trade and investment processes. I must say how proud I am that despite COVID, Invest Salone’s work has already secured roughly US$3.4m additional indirect investment into Sierra Leone, has supported firms employing roughly 35,0000 people to become investment- and export-ready, and has enabled the private sector to feed into government policies to support improvements in the investment climate.”
Other businesses pitching at the investment deal summit included:
- Premier Enviro Solutions – a business which is creating a formal plastic waste economy by using plastic waste to manufacture building blocks for low-cost housing.
- Jaiima Farms – an agribusiness producing Sierra Leone’s first bottled hot pepper sauce in four flavours, and building a ready market for local pepper farmers.
- Lambano SL Ltd – a company which sells point-of-lay pullets and produces and markets poultry feed locally, in the process creating jobs and reducing food insecurity.
- Mama Jah’s – a producer of healthy dried fruit snacks which supports women in rural communities by providing training and employment and buying their produce.
- Alcess Glee – a food company which adds value to local organic produce like honey and ginger through packaging and processing, helping tackle food waste and supporting healthy eating.
- Wangu Holdings – an agribusiness providing quality farm fresh juices and other farm products to customers, which also creates a sustainable livelihood for out-growers.
- Breakfast Club Africa – knowledge sharing and executive coaching for leaders of organisations, enabling better decision making and improved results.
- Cerosa – a construction company building low-cost homes, creating employment and improving the quality of life for residents.
- Work Ready Africa – a training and recruitment company providing capacity building and training for job seekers and companies.
- Water and Sanitation Promotion Company (SL) Ltd, a company supporting healthy communities by constructing wells, latrines and hand-washing facilities in rural communities.
Avril Pratt, consultant, Invest Salone summed up the event by saying: “Impact investing has become a real driver of global economic development. An important objective of Invest Salone’s collaboration with Acumen West Africa is to demonstrate the potential in Sierra Leone for innovative, successful businesses that also facilitate sustainable change by addressing socio-economic challenges such as housing, unemployment, skills and food insecurity. An enabling ecosystem for social enterprises requires awareness, interested investors and the right frameworks and incentives. We look forward to collaborating with the public and private sectors to develop this important area.”