The 97Fund, a Ugandan domiciled Open-end Investment Vehicle (HoldCo) that invests in high growth
early stage companies in Africa, has launched a $1 Million COVID19 Relief Fund (the “Fund”). The
97Fund is managed by Ortus Africa Capital. The Fund shall focus on Uganda and invest in solutions
targeting and addressing challenges caused by the COVID19 pandemic and solutions that prepare
Uganda for a post COVID-19 environment.
The COVID19 Relief Fund supports promising entrepreneurs to scale and develop solutions that will help
Uganda emerge from the coronavirus crisis and create competitive advantage for the post-crisis period.
The potential number of jobs created and contribution to livelihoods are the key metrics for the Fund. The
COVID19 Relief Fund targets companies that are responding to the pandemic while creating jobs. These
include; providing healthcare services; re-imagining business models in sectors like tourism and services,
education, finance, new ways of working (collaborative working, work from home, gig work); supply chains
and logistics; digital economy especially market places.
The COVID19 Relief Fund offers $2,000 – $10,000 as an equity-free grant, with an opportunity for follow on funding from The 97Fund and or co-investment partners, as well as access to workspace and mentorship. Rolling applications are being received online by logging on https://the97.fund/about-covid19-relief-fund/. Received applications are taken through a screening process to identify workable and scalable solutions to current and future problems as a result of COVID19, screened solutions are invited to present at a demo day before being put to an Investment Committee. The selected solutions are awarded a combination of funding and technical assistance. So far, the Fund has received applications from over 130 entrepreneurs which have been evaluated, three (3) demo days have been completed from which 22 solutions have been identified to put to the Investment Committee.
According to Kenneth Legesi, the Managing Partner at Ortus Africa Capital who manage The 97Fund,
“The disruptive impact of COVID – 19 on Uganda’s social and economic landscape is beginning to be felt
by different businesses. Following the Presidential directives on measures to curb the spread of the virus,
the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development detailed the economic impact of COVID –
19; with economic growth projected to decline from 6% to 5.2%, with an estimate of 2.5 million Ugandans
likely to fall back into poverty. There is therefore a need to ensure economic and business continuity
happens in a way that prepares for long lasting growth and sustainability to also mitigate future crises,” he said.
The COVID-19 Relief Fund has been seeded initially with $1,000,000 from The Innovation Village as part of the
Young Africa Works Program supported by Mastercard Foundation. The Innovation Village is on a mission to unlock and enable potential through innovation. The Innovation Village is Uganda’s launch pad for leading Innovators and Entrepreneurs and seeks to solve the problems facing innovators and entrepreneurs such as: market & access to capital, appropriate mentorship and advisory, innovative problem solving not being applied by corporates, governments and development partners and market and connectivity.
“Before this pandemic, many people were skeptical about innovation and why it is important to adopt it as
a way of life. However, COVID19 has enabled change at a rapid pace, requiring a huge deal of innovative
thinking,” he added
Adding The 97 COVID19 Relief Fund comes to support entrepreneurs that have taken this window of
uncertainty as an opportunity to invest in sustainable solutions that normalize this new way of life.
“Our goal is to grow companies that matter, and are centered on solving the biggest industry and community
challenges. We leverage innovation, entrepreneurship and technology to deliver lasting solutions to
challenges in the world. At a time like this, we are pleased to work together with Ortus Africa Capital to
unlock and enable potential through innovative thinking to drive sustainable growth and economic
posterity.” said CK Japheth, CEO and Team Lead The Innovation Village.