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From grants to investments in social entities: the impact investing projects

From 2015 onwards, and to further boost our social investments, we set up a partnership with the Opes Foundation, a qualified investment fund for high social impact entrepreneurship projects. We therefore engaged in investing philanthropic capital, through Opes, into financially sustainable companies capable of promoting social progress and lifting people out of poverty. Opes is the leading Italian Social Venture Capital operating in critical development sectors: health, access to water, basic sanitation, energy, education and food. Its mission is to support social ventures and enlightened entrepreneurs proposing innovative, sustainable and long-term solutions in response to the most relenting demands of the people at the bottom of the social stratum. Opes' targets are pre-existing start-up social ventures seeking to validate their business model. These are located in developing countries and, since 2018, also in Italy. Opes channels philanthropic capital in the form of investments to achieve social impact and financial returns.

All the funds returned to Opes are reinvested in new social ventures.


Location: Uganda
Sector: Sustainable agriculture
Opes investment date: June 2016
Investments amount: Euro 87,000 
SEA Participation:  Euro 40,000

KadAfrica is a social enterprise founded in 2011 in Fort Portal, Uganda, which produces and markets passion fruit, employs vulnerable young women in two-year training and development programmes, and offering a guaranteed outlet market to a wide network of small local agricultural activities committed to overcoming the limits of subsistence farming. In trying to find the right balance between economic sustainability and social goals, the enterprise has made various changes to its business model and market positioning.

In rural and remote areas, KadAfrica faces the challenges of youth employment precariousness and early marriage (40% of girls marry before they are fifteen).

KadAfrica - No. young women involved in training


Source: Opes Foundation

The impact of the activity has been extremely positive, with 2,196 young women involved in the two-year training and development programme in the last two years, and their monthly incomes increasing by an average of 250%.

Wider significant indirect impacts affected 10,980 people in local communities. 50% of the young women in the programme acquired access to funding through savings and loans. In particular, 847 young women were involved in the training in 2018, 118 of whom subsequently abandoned the programme (26 in the 1st quarter, 33 in the 2nd, 21 in the 3rd and 38 in the 4th).

The project received numerous accolades in 2018. Indeed, KadAfrica won the “Grand Challenge Canada” award for the world’s best social enterprises dealing with issues of women’s health and well-being. The organization is currently negotiating the scaling-up of activities. KadAfrica’s programme for young and vulnerable women was also received a donation of USD 250,000 as one of the winners of the Roddenberry Award.

The enterprise’s reputation in terms of social interventions has resulted in it acquiring various donations and prizes, though it has also tipped the balance of focus away from the economic sustainability of its market activities, including fruit collection points and its national distribution network.

Despite a contraction in turnover in 2018, also due to market fluctuations and pricing pressures, the company recently obtained the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for a pulp production pilot project feasibility study, designed to create opportunities for greater harvest exploitation and industrial diversification.

KadAfrica - Turnover 2018 (USD thousands)


Source: Opes Foundation

In any case, KadAfrica's potential market is expanding. Numerous potential buyers are interested, both locally and in the United States and South Africa.

2019 will test the company’s ability to increase production and guarantee more quantitatively important supplies to national and international customers.

“The Water Shop Naivasha” Project 

Location: Kenya
Sector: Access to drinking water
Opes investment date: 2014-2016-2018
Investment amount: Euro 118,000
SEA Participation:  Euro 40,000

The Water Shop Naivasha is a social venture company operating through the "PureFresh" brand and is based in Naivasha, Kenya (80,000 inhabitants, 90 km north west of Nairobi) in the Rift Valley, proposing an effective solution to the problem of the precarious and unreliable access to drinking water.

Launched in 2010, PureFresh is involved in the extraction, purification and sale of drinking water (both loose and bottled water).

In Kenya, 42% of urban slum inhabitants and 50% of rural inhabitants do not have guaranteed continuous access to drinking water. In particular, aquifers in the Rift Valley region contain a high concentration of fluorine, leading to a high incidence of osteofluorosis. The immediate result of which is the weakening and discoloration of teeth.

However, the effects of prolonged exposure to excessive fluoride concentrations go well beyond tooth discoloration to include widespread paralyzing bone abnormalities and deformities. Scientific research has evidenced a direct correlation between excessive fluoride exposure and reduced intelligence in children, from quantities of 1 mg/litre and above.

The most common way for low-income families to purify contaminated water is to boil it. However, the use of charcoal, wood or kerosene (their most common energy sources) is the number one factor in infant deaths under 5 years of age: respiratory diseases.

Numerous government and international development agency interventions have been aimed at guaranteeing drinking water to the Rift Valley population over recent decades.

Yet only Antony Kamotho’s Naivasha Water Shop has managed to guarantee a continuous supply of drinking water at prices that are affordable for even the poorest segments of the population. The social enterprise uses reverse osmosis technology and a franchise distribution model with entrepreneur customized vending machines to contain prices and make clean water as accessible as possible. The catchment population of the area served is approximately Euro 1.6 million.

The enterprise targets the low and medium to low income population that cannot afford the bottled water sold in supermarkets.

PureFresh launched its business with the opening of two shops in Naivasha (expanded to 4 over the years). In 2015, the Company started to test a new expansion model installing 5 drinking water vending machines in existing shops to increase sales volumes, reduce operational costs and deliver price points that ensure its products are more accessible for low-income customers.

The Water Shop Naivasha - Turnover development ($)


Source: Opes Foundation

The Opes Foundation initially made an investment in 2014, while in 2016, with SEA’s contribution, it financed a pilot franchise model to upgrade the activity from 5 to 25 franchises.

In 2018, based on the encouraging results, the pilot project was expanded through financing for a second purification plant in the city of Nakuru (the first is in Naivasha), which will allow a tripling in production capacity over the coming years.

Currently, the enterprise successfully manages:

  • 2 fresh water plants
  • 3 directly-managed distribution and sales points
  • 35 franchises.

The Water Shop Naivasha - Growth in number of families served per week


Source: Opes Foundation

Purified and distributed water volumes have increased from 2 million litres in 2017 to 3 million litres in 2018.

The number of families served per week increased from an average of 7,500 in 2017 to 12,000 in 2018.

In the near future, PureFresh aims to carry out a capital increase to expand further and increase the size of the population served.


Location: Italia
Sector: Ethical fashion
Opes Investment date: 2018
Investment amount: Euro 300,000
SEA Participation:  Euro 40,000

Quid is a social cooperative, which, through its ethical fashion brand “Progetto Quid”, offers stable work opportunities and professional development to those faced with employment difficulties, with particular attention dedicated to women.

Quid’s management team is composed of young professionals, 90% of which women between the ages of 25 and 40, who, having been trained abroad or in sector-leading companies, such as Safilo, Falconeri and Calzedonia, have chosen to put their talent to work for social entrepreneurship.

Progetto Quid aims to revolutionize the perception of ethical fashion with limited edition collections created from locally recovered production surpluses. In addition to existing as an independent brand, Progetto Quid in the guise of “Progetto Quid for” supplies ethical lines to Italian fashion companies sensitive to environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

Progetto Quid – Turnover development (Euro)


Source: Opes Foundation

The Impact Model

Since 2013, Quid has offered stable and transparent work placement opportunities for vulnerable people in a young and dynamic environment (80% of whom women) in its various departments, including production and quality control, retail, logistics, administration and management. With its commitment to addressing a wide range of vulnerabilities, Quid established a sartorial workshop in the women’s section of Montorio Prison, near to Verona, in 2014, and has begun to integrate women into its personnel from vulnerable categories currently lacking other forms of support. The innovative approach earned Quid first prize in 2014’s European Social Innovation Competition, and, in 2017, United Nations Momentum For Change and European Commission Employment and Social Affairs Civil Society prizes.

A Systemic Impact - The Social Supply Chain

Progetto Quid realizes its creations almost exclusively from production surpluses, excessively large or small production batches or those abandoned due to market trends or fabric characteristics. Through its network of 17 fabric suppliers, Quid is able to prolong the life cycle of fabrics and shorten their carbon footprint by tens of thousands of metres every year, totalling as much as 200,000 metres in 2018 alone.

Strengthening its social impact 

Quid has entered the period 2018-20 with an ambitious growth plan to maximize its social and commercial impact by achieving the target of 120 employees and a turnover of Euro 4.5 million by 2020.

The cooperative aims to create specific programmes for asylum seekers, refugees and male prisoners, in order to meet particular local needs, as well as workplace leadership and integration programmes in order to make work integration and training interventions more effective.

Opes, with SEA’s contribution, decided to support Quid in a delicate phase of growth in which it needs a partner that not only provides “patient capital”, but also support in managing growing complexity in the organization of increasingly complex industrial processes, the optimization of production processes and the sourcing of various capital inputs. Opes, in addition to capital, provided support through a manager specialized in industrial processes, who aided the entrepreneurs in the choice of management system, the definition and adjustment of processes, the preparation of a three-year business plan, and support in seeking additional funding.

Opes has defined a series of social KPI monitoring metrics, whose achievement will bring financial benefits in the form of a discount on the proportional cost of the capital.

The impact indicators relate to:

  • Internal mobility of staff employed in production processes.
  • % of vulnerable over total employees.
  • Integration of migrants (vulnerable category not subject to tax relief).
  • General support interventions aimed at members in difficulty.
  • Quality and quantity of customers in the B2B segment (ecosystem impact indicator).