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Meet 3 grantees empowering forcibly displaced people in East Africa

Get an inside look at the cohort of social enterprises and how the awardees will use their funding to scale
September 28th, 2022

Image provided by Derrick Hosea

14 teams from East Africa were selected for Acumen Academy’s new accelerator program serving forcibly displaced people (FDPs) with an impressive track record. Collectively, they employed 819 people, and worked with 86,000 FDPs (75% of which are women) and 38,500 host community members (of which around 71% are women) across Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

Each team sought out the Accelerator for Ventures Serving Displaced People because of its unique focus: it's Acumen's first program supporting enterprises specifically working to better serve, employ, and create opportunities for economic self-reliance and social cohesion among FDPs and their host communities. 

Over the course of ten weeks, the accelerator supported entrepreneurs as they developed their business and leadership skills. After the program, they will be equipped with the tools to accelerate their scaling timeline and reach even more FDP and host community members — in just a few months.

As they navigated the course, their cohort provided a unique haven for these teams, many whom have dedicated their life’s work to supporting refugees and their host communities, and several who are refugees themselves. Within this community, each team can find common ground, like-minded perspectives, and peer-led inspiration on their path towards expansion. 

Scaling up their impact: 3 grant recipients

To provide additional support for scaling, Acumen Academy possessed $75,000 in grants to award to three exceptional participating enterprises. At the end of the program, each enterprise presented a 5-minute pitch to a panel of program stakeholders, including representatives from Acumen East Africa , SDC, Pearl Capital Partners, JICA and RIN. The ventures were assessed on impact breadth and depth, traction, financial viability, and vision for scale.

Due to the significant overall strength of the cohort, the final selections were incredibly challenging to make, as each team demonstrated meaningful impact and an inspiring vision. Nevertheless, three grantees were ultimately chosen: 

  • Patapia, a micro-finance and training venture serving both FDP as customers and users 
  • Turaco Valley Foods, an agriculture company that creates fair markets for refugee farmers and sustainably supports their production 
  • Pelere Group, a shea processing and cosmetics brand that sources from and employs refugees 

Meet the grant awardees below, find out more about their work, and learn how their experience in the program has impacted their enterprises. 

Pelere Group 


Photo provided by Pelere Group

Pelere Group Limited, a Uganda-based social enterprise, designs and manufactures shea nut products for refugee customers, while providing training and sustainable employment for FDP women, young people, and families as suppliers. 

For Sandra Letio, Managing Director at Pelere, a cohort full of other FDP-focused enterprises greatly contributed to her learning process throughout the program. She found that sharing a cohort with others who have dedicated their life’s work to supporting refugees and their host communities has been highly significant. While witnessing her colleagues’ triumphs and hearing their ideas, Sandra was able to soak up valuable new information, improve her business skill set, and ultimately work through her own learning curves. 

One team brought insights about creating a rapport with potential employees. “In a breakout session, one company shared about their experience hiring within FDP camps, and how much easier it was to get more customers since the team was already trusted [within the community],” Sandra shared. This reminded her that building connections within the camps is an excellent way to sustain a business. 

The program also helped her develop a more effective structure for her company. “[The Accelerator’s] financial model taught me how to project entire year[s],” she noted, which was her biggest takeaway from the program and helped her secure investors. “If more businesses would adopt  their business model,” she said, “it would change a lot. It’s like giving fishing rods instead of fish.” 

Sandra’s business partner, Ronald Ochoo, valued the opportunity to practice pitching and developing the venture’s business processes, and he appreciated gaining insights on other teams’ different areas of focus, such as energy and skill development. 

During their dynamic pitch presentation, Pelere was commended for a commitment to their product and cause, their traction and fundraising efforts, as well as their inclusive development model and strong case for business. They were also praised for their connection to and engagement with local farmers.

Sandra and her team plan to use their grant toward sales and marketing as Pelere Group launches their new packaging and a wider distribution of products. “When the market increases demands for products, our suppliers (FDP and host communities) will have to increase their supply of [a specific] shea fruit, leading them to earn more income from us,” Sandra explained. The grant will enable the team to rapidly increase their sales in both local and export markets. 

In addition to this funding opportunity, Sandra will gain another valuable asset for her venture —the connections she’s cultivated with other members in her cohort.“We are all in a WhatsApp group together. We will keep working together and mentoring each other.” 

Turaco Valley Foods


Photo provided by Turaco Valley Foods

Because of the cohort’s collaborative nature, Turaco Valley Foods’ founder and CEO Matthew felt productive and at peace in this learning environment. “The accelerator would have felt more like a competition if it hadn’t been for this common thread. Instead, it was an opportunity to share and learn what others have been able to design and achieve.”

Built to add value to the crops of refugee smallholder farmers, Turaco Valley Foods strives to create an equitable marketplace, strengthen the maize supply chain, and improve food security. 

Of the cohort’s attributes, Matthew said,“Everyone joined with strong ideas on how their model linked to improving the wellbeing of FDP, yet [we] needed support in different areas to go to the next level,” said Matthew. He shared that each team benefitted from witnessing their colleagues’ challenges within their initiatives. In this way, they could accompany and grow with each other throughout their time in the accelerator. 

Based on his learnings, the program strengthened Matthew’s belief in the extreme viability of business ventures involving FDP. “I think this shows just how fertile the business environment is for those working to sustainably tackle similar issues, providing us with even greater confidence that there will be growing interest in helping such ideas flourish.”   

In fact, fellow awardee Patapia left an impact on Matthew by sharing insights about farmers’ frequent investment challenges when it came to products, crop management and storage, and community supply and demand. This inspired Matthew and his team to better cater Turaco Valley Foods to these financial needs. 

“We’ve been keen to explore interest-free loans, prepayment, and warehouse receipt systems with farmers we work with. Sharing an accelerator with an organization overcoming these financial service issues is inspiring and highlights the role of training and community saving groups to make financial services work for refugees. We hope to learn more!”  

"It is FDPs who are, frankly, leading the way on development and humanitarian responses in their communities, and they are actually the best and first line of defense in these areas — far more so than any NGO, social enterprise, or governmental agency."

Matthew Hopewell

Founder & CEO of Turaco Valley Foods

Turaco Valley Foods is looking forward to helping FDP overcome their overall systemic challenges. They’re especially excited to stay in touch with other ventures in the agricultural sector, including Kechi Bee Source Farm, Pelere Group, and Haile Wako Integrated Farm. 

“At Turaco we aim to diversify our products to add value to different crops [that] refugees already produce [in order] to obtain greater incomes from better access to fair and reliable markets. Keeping in contact with other agri-social enterprises can help show us the way on how to do this as they test specific markets.” 

The pitch panelists praised Turaco Valley Foods for their passion, noting that this team has done an excellent job at emphasizing key areas such as product quality, rural operations, and networking. 

Their next endeavor is to double the production of maize flour and reach profitability in time for their next farmer support program. In lieu of this, they plan to use this new grant to equip their machines with the proper technology to handle large amounts of grain so that they can meet their production target. 

“This will entail increasing our working capital to buy and store grain which can improve current margins by 60%,” Matthew explained. “ It will also help us overcome our remaining transport challenges moving between Kampala and Rwamwanja where the mill is located to support the management of grain sourcing, production, and sales.”


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Photo provided by Patapia

“I loved belonging to a group passionate about creating the same change,” said Rebecca Aime, founder of Patapia. “It was easier for me to hold conversations with others because we had common ground. And I was able to give quality feedback because I have experienced the refugee situation myself.” 

Patapia is an enterprise that provides women entrepreneurs with financing to start their own companies and provide a sustainable source of income for their families. The company offers a training and mentorship program that helps these women manage their finances and learn more about sustainable business models.

As an unexpected outcome from the accelerator, Rebecca noticed that her confidence skyrocketed. “Sometimes I was not sure about what to say, but seeing the level of confidence of other participants in the calls gave me the courage to easily talk about my own thoughts and feelings. And for me, this is one of the most important aspects of being in a community of like-minded people. You learn things you didn't even intend to learn.”

Along with a boost in confidence, Rebecca also noticed her own perception of refugees shifted throughout the accelerator. As a refugee herself, she was inspired by the program’s focus on self-reliance. “While in the accelerator, I learned that there are so many young people who are standing out from the norm and doing things to improve their communities.” 

As Patapia plans to recruit more members to their team, Rebecca feels particularly compelled to stay in touch with fellow cohort member FLIP Africa, a social enterprise that similarly develops and guides talent into temporary work. Patapia is also looking to other refugee settlements like Rwamwanja in Kenya. 

The panelists were captivated by Patapia’s powerful story and deep understanding of their target customer, given Rebecca’s experience as a refugee. They also commended the team’s clear understanding of the risks and challenges on their path to scale. 

This path forward is being greatly aided by Patapia’s awarded grant, which will help the venture to set up a new hub at the Rwamwanja site. The rest of funding will contribute to finishing the set-up of the current hub in Kampala with a larger training space, trainers and mentors, a fully established mobile banking platform, and the financing of more women into entrepreneurship. 

The Accelerator for Ventures Serving Forcibly Displaced People is tremendously proud of the three grantees, as well as the entire cohort of impressive teams. The program wishes them well on their commendable journey to provide a means of livelihood and community for FDP. 

To learn more about the participating ventures, check out our accelerator page and our blog on the 3 Social Enterprises Pioneering Light, Connection, and Livelihood for FDP.

The Accelerator for Ventures Serving Forcibly Displaced People is supported by the IKEA Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Coordination.