The Spark+ Africa Fund has raised over $40 million in a first close, it was announced on Wednesday. The Fund is the world’s first impact investment fund focused on financing the value chains of clean and modern cooking appliances and fuels, to make them available to more people across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Clean cooking businesses face many challenges, including limited access to investment capital to increase their production and distribution capacity, high-risk perception, and an insufficient return profile to attract commercial investment. Spark+ directly responds to these challenges and is a key component of the African Development Bank’s actions in the area of clean cooking. Spark+ is anchored by the African Development Bank, using resources from the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa.
The Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), managed by the African Development Bank, provided anchor financing for the innovative fund. Dr. Daniel Schroth, the Bank’s Acting Director for Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency, said: “SEFA’s anchor investment in the Fund’s first-loss tranche contributed to catalysing the participation of additional financiers in Spark+. We are pleased that the Fund has been established as its investments are expected to support the delivery of clean cooking solutions to well over 10 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa, with significant benefits for public health, gender equality, the environment, and climate.”
The Spark+ Africa Fund was launched by its Switzerland-based investment advisor Enabling Qapital and Netherlands-based foundation Stichting Modern Cooking. Peter George, Co-Investment Director of Spark+ and Chairman of Stichting Modern Cooking, said: “We are grateful for the catalytic role that the African Development Bank and SEFA have played in launching Spark+. Access to clean and modern cooking solutions is an underappreciated component of infrastructure, with a major impact on the health and well-being of hundreds of millions of people, and in particular women, on the continent.”
Xavier Pierluca, Co-Investment Director of Spark+ and Managing Partner of Enabling Qapital, said: “The support from SEFA and the African Development Bank are key and timely to finance an essential segment of the access to energy space with a significant impact on people’s lives and our planet. Spark+ will offer tailored investment instruments throughout the value chain, from innovative design and manufacturing companies to last-mile distributors, in order to further the outreach of clean cooking solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Apart from the African Development Bank, Spark+ Africa Fund is supported by more than a dozen investors, including governments, foundations and financial institutions. The Clean Cooking Alliance, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation, and its donors, including the Norwegian and Dutch governments and the African Development Bank, supported the development of Spark+. The Fund has a target size of $70 million.
Spark+ Africa Fund will make debt, mezzanine, and equity investments in companies that manufacture and distribute clean cooking solutions, such as biomass stoves, advanced biomass fuels, liquefied petroleum gas, ethanol and biogas systems. Spark+ will also invest in distributors and consumer finance providers, such as off-grid solar companies and microfinance institutions that extend their services to clean cooking products.
Access to reliable and affordable energy remains an aspiration for many Africans. While Africa has made strides towards increasing electricity access over the last decade, there has been less progress on access to clean cooking solutions. Close to 900 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to modern energy services for cooking, with negative impacts on health, especially for women and children, and the environment.