elea Annual Review 2021
Dear elea Stakeholder
2021 was another extraordinary year. Thanks to the implementation of comprehensive health measures, including strong vaccination campaigns, some, mainly high-income countries, could enjoy returning to fragile pockets of normality. However, many of the low-to-middle income countries we are active in were not so fortunate. This situation not only worsens the livelihood opportunities of the people living at the base of the pyramid but also represents massive challenges for our impact entrepreneurs who work tirelessly to improve them.
elea's actions in the first half of the year were again mostly confined to immediate crisis interventions. Without this support, many of our entrepreneurs – who, after all, are important engines of positive change in their countries – would not have gotten through these trying times. For us at elea, this meant investing even more time in individual coaching, lending even stronger support to our partners on a strategic level, and providing unbureaucratic emergency funding where necessary to ensure our entrepreneurs stayed on mission. It was only over the summer, with an improving global outlook, that we could begin to plan beyond the immediate health crisis and work together with our partners to further the medium- and long-term development of their impact and economic models. Thanks to the resilience of our entrepreneurs and the support of all these measures, most of our ventures coped well with the challenges of the pandemic. Many were even able to transform them into impact opportunities by adjusting customer service, accelerating digitization, or re-thinking their offering. Nonetheless, awamo, a software solution provider to microfinance institutions in Uganda, and Lynk, an online platform that connects households with skilled craftsperson services in Kenya, greatly struggled against the consequences of the pandemic, and their survival was called into question. However, we succeeded in selling the operational core of both companies and thus in securing the continuity of their impact.
Aside from these setbacks – which are part and parcel of being an early-stage philanthropic impact investor – the year also provided us with some remarkable highlights: In March we launched our elea Entrepreneurs’ Community, a community designed to act as a catalyst for impact by promoting peer-to-peer exchange between our entrepreneurs and by providing a platform for mutual learning. We kickstarted the process with a tailor-made “Leading for Impact” program in collaboration with our academic partner IMD Lausanne. Another highlight was our annual Philanthropic Investors’ Circle event in October, where we welcomed four of our impact entrepreneurs physically and virtually among our philanthropic investors and friends in Zurich.
We are particularly proud of the fact that, despite all the restrictions caused by the pandemic, we were able to expand our portfolio with five new impact ventures in all of our three thematic areas. One example is our investment in ATEC where we explore how, through innovative approaches, we can combine our fight against absolute poverty with efforts to combat climate change. ATEC is an Australian company with activities in Bangladesh and Cambodia, that designs and distributes clean cooking products such as electrical cookstoves to low-income families. Their model leverages the benefits of pay-as-you-go technology that makes the product affordable and allows for collecting live usage data which is necessary for generating carbon credits. Another example is J-Palm, a company that works with smallholder farmers in Liberia to produce and market organic palm oil, thus creating an important source of sustainable income for them.
In an effort to further intensify our activities, we have strengthened the elea team: With Greta Carioli, Arnaud Schuele, and Isabelle Sun our elea Talent Program grew by another generation of top university talents. In addition, we further expanded our leadership resources with the appointment of Benoît Demaurex as an Executive Director. Finally, with the joining of Lars Flükiger as an IT analyst and with Elena Torresani as a Head of Communications & Partnerships, we filled two additional key positions within our team. The impact and growth of our organization is made possible by those who steadfastly stand behind us. We want to take this opportunity to thank our esteemed Comité de Patronage and all the members of our elea Philanthropic Investors’ Circle for their unwavering support and trust in elea. We extend a special thanks to Jürg and Manuela Schaeppi, who joined the elea Comité de Patronage, and to Felix and Maria Haldner for the generous increase in their commitment.
While we write these lines we are shocked about the horrifying news that reach us daily about the war in Ukraine. While our thoughts are with those directly affected, we condemn in the strongest terms all acts of war. We are greatly concerned about the rising level of poverty and the trend of de-globalization that are being accelerated through this crisis and we will do our share to stand up for and to promote our values of liberal ethics. Thank you for your continued interest in elea and your support of our efforts to fight absolute poverty with entrepreneurial means.
Dr. Peter A. Wuffli Chairman
Andreas R. Kirchschläger CEO