Alitheia IDF, a private equity firm based in Nigeria, is taking a pioneering approach to investment in Africa by focusing on women-led and women-focused businesses. Founded in 2015 by Tokunboh Ishmael and Polo Leteka, Alitheia IDF aims to bridge the gap that often prevents African women-founders from accessing capital from both private markets and traditional banking institutions.
The firm manages a $100 million fund, currently the largest “gender-lens” fund in Africa, which specifically supports women-led businesses that are often overlooked by mainstream investment. Alitheia IDF has already invested in a number of startups in various sectors, including Lidya and Paga in fintech, and Max.ng in logistics.
Alitheia IDF aims to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions and the imbalance of funding for female founders in Africa. By investing in women-led and women-focused businesses, the firm seeks to boost diversity, enhance innovation, and tap into the significant purchasing power controlled by women in the region. Alitheia IDF plans to fully deploy its fund next year and has plans for additional funds to further support “gender-lens” investing in the future.
An Early Adopter of Impact Investing
Alitheia IDF’s co-founder Tokunboh Ishmael has been an active investor in Africa for over two decades. She has a particular interest in climate and fintech sectors and has previously invested through her private equity firm Alitheia Capital, which she founded in 2007. Alitheia Capital has supported a range of startups, including fintechs Lidya and Paga, as well as logistics firm Max.ng.
Ishmael’s motivation to invest for impact and leverage technology as a tool for transformation led her to focus on driving inclusion in sectors such as finance, energy, education, and health. Alitheia Capital’s first fund, managed in partnership with Goodwell Investments, aimed to enhance access to financial services for low-income populations and small businesses through the use of technology, particularly mobile money.
Another fund focused on energy inclusion sought to provide cleaner energy options for low-income households, reducing deforestation and improving the lives of smallholder farming families. These early experiences paved the way for the launch of Alitheia IDF in 2015.
A Unique Approach to Investment
Recognizing the lack of diversity within their own portfolio, Alitheia IDF’s founders decided to create the first-of-its-kind fund that uses a gender perspective to address the imbalance in funding and representation of women in senior positions within businesses. The fund not only supports women founders but also backs businesses that have an impact on women.
Alitheia IDF primarily invests in businesses that are at the point of scaling, with proven products and services and customer revenue. The firm takes a partnership approach, providing financing, mentorship, access to networks, and strategic growth support. It aims to help companies expand their footprint, access new markets, and push for the right types of products and services. The sectors of focus include finance, essential services, and gender, with a preference for companies headquartered in western and southern Africa that are expanding across the continent.
The Impact of Alitheia IDF
Since its inception, Alitheia IDF has had a significant impact by addressing the key challenge of access to finance for women-led businesses. The fund has not only enabled recipients to tap into pools of capital but also helped them raise their aspirations for scaling their businesses. By bridging the confidence gap and providing support in becoming investor-ready, Alitheia IDF has empowered women founders to approach equity investors with greater confidence and achieve their growth ambitions.
Increasing Funding Opportunities for Women-led Companies
Alitheia IDF emphasizes the importance of diversity in fund management and decision-making to increase funding opportunities for women-led businesses. The team’s composition, led by women, has been instrumental in actively seeking out women founders and addressing unconscious biases that impede intentional support for female fund managers and companies that serve women.
By committing to action on diversity and consciously seeking out female fund managers and founders, the investment landscape in Africa can become more inclusive and provide greater opportunities for women-led companies to thrive.