AFRICA – Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB Canada) has announced the launch of a US$24 million fund to invest in African startups.

The blended-finance impact fund, Hummingbird Impact, will invest in scalable, tech-enabled social ventures across Africa at the pre-Seed, Seed and Series A stages.

In a statement, EWB Canada said its Hummingbird Impact venture fund would leverage on nearly a decade of EWB Canada’s experience delivering talent and seed capital to early-stage, for-profit social ventures in Africa with a track record of 11 investments.

The fund will be complemented by a US$4M technical assistance facility to accelerate the growth and impact performance of its portfolio. Hummingbird Impact will operate autonomously and is supported by and affiliated with EWB Canada.

As a gender-lens investor, the fund will focus on bringing a holistic approach to business practices that promotes women’s economic participation, leadership and entrepreneurship.

Commenting in the announcement, EWB Canada CEO Boris Martin said spinning off a business unit has precedence at EWB. “We do it when it allows us to reach sustainable impact at scale.

In this case, Hummingbird will allow us to catalyse both philanthropic and commercial capital towards a shared mission.”

Muthoni Wachira, a founding partner for Hummingbird said that gender equality and women’s empowerment are key to reducing global poverty.

“Research also shows that gender and ethnically diverse teams are positively correlated with higher impact and profitability than their peers.

“Hummingbird will therefore commit 100% of its proceeds towards these underserved, undervalued and undercapitalised ventures,” said Wachira.

As an investor in technology innovations, the fund will contribute to the sustainable development of the continent by leapfrogging growth obstacles.

By proving the financial and impact potential of investing in diverse teams, Hummingbird seeks to motivate those with more financial might (both private and public investors) to address inequality and promote empowerment by dedicating capital towards women-led and locally founded African startups.

“Thanks to the philanthropic backing of generous individuals, visionary foundations and Global Affairs Canada, EWB Canada has been able to demonstrate the effectiveness of its model in addressing the unique needs of early-stage startups in Africa. We have proven that it works, and it is now time to scale its impact” said Boris Martin.

Hummingbird Impact provides early institutional capital and portfolio support to for-profit and impact-driven African tech ventures. As a gender-lens impact investor, Hummingbird’s mission is to catalyse and de-risk innovative and highly scalable solutions to bring systemic change to an undercapitalised and biased system.

Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB Canada) is a registered charity that invests in people and ideas to tackle the most crucial causes of poverty and inequality. Over the past 20 years, EWB Canada has iterated an impact model for social ventures in Africa that combines seed capital, talent and mentorship.