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Acumen Fund to Spend Up to $25 Million in West Africa Ventures

Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture-capital fund that invests in developing countries, plans to spend $20 million to $25 million in West Africa over five years as it expands on the world’s poorest continent.

“We are currently looking into additional agriculture investments and housing,” said Teresa Wells, a spokeswoman for New York-based Acumen, in an e-mailed response to questions Feb. 16. “Raising local philanthropy will be critical to making this happen.”

Acumen, which has invested in ambulances in India, irrigation systems in Pakistan and toilets in Kenya, opened its West African branch in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, last week.

“We have already invested $2.5 million in the first year of our presence in Ghana,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and chief executive officer, in an interview Feb. 15.

The fund spent $1.5 million on a rice-farming project and $1 million on a company that documents land ownership, according to its website. Acumen put $1.8 million in Sproxil, a company that verifies pharmaceutical products, in part to expand operations in Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation.

Acumen “is a patient fund,” investing for at least 7 years in a project, Novogratz said. They also work to attract other capital investment and government interest in projects, she said. “Any money returned to Acumen is reinvested in new innovations serving the poor.”

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