Gambia Angel Investors Network
During its acceleration phase, ITC’s Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) in the Gambia identified access to capital as one of the most pressing bottlenecks faced by youth entrepreneurs to set up and grow their businesses.
High interest rates and requirements for collateral make it extremely difficult for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to finance their ventures with bank loans. In The Gambia, private sector credit amounts to only 14.7% of GDP, which is well below the West African average of 58.7%.
Following a political transition in early 2017, the Gambian Government initiated reforms to rebalance public financing. These measures, alongside the budgetary support provided by development partners, resulted in some signs of recovery including a slight reduction of the interest rates. However, access to capital will continue to be a major obstacle for young entrepreneurs in the short and mid-term.
This makes it particularly challenging for start-ups and MSMEs in need of longer term and risk capital to finance their ventures. Entrepreneurs around the world often face funding gaps between what friends and families can offer and what banks, venture capitalists, and private equity firms are willing to contribute. This funding gap is often referred to as the ‘Valley of Death’ because, without access to appropriate finance, it can be nearly impossible for a start-up to survive.
So-called angel investment can help bridge this finance gap by supplying additional rounds of funding to growing companies.
There is no universal definition of angel investing, but it is generally understood as the practice of high-net worth individuals investing their own time and money in new businesses with the goal of gaining from their long-term growth.
Such investments are characterized by very high levels of risk as most companies are in the earliest stages and will likely fail. Angels are typically interested in more than just receiving a financial return. Personal interest, the desire to give back, and the thrill of being involved with an innovative company are just a few of the reasons why people decide to become angel investors.
In the Gambia, international and local investors are interested in investing in Gambian businesses, but lack information about opportunities and/or confidence in local institutions to screen potential deals.
To address this, ITC in partnership with the African Business Angel Network (ABAN) and the Gambian Investment Promotion Agency (GIEPA), worked for the past two years to set-up the Gambia’s first angel investors’ network.
The initiative brings together high-net worth individuals with a common goal of investing in high-potential local businesses.
The Gambia Angel Investors Network (GAIN) provides potential investors with a transparent and impartial channel for the assessment of deals in the country. It also supports local businesses in finding appropriate investment solutions in keeping with their needs. By connecting entrepreneurs with considerably higher capital needs to individuals with large business experience and investment capacity, the initiative also offers mentorship and networking opportunities.
GAIN is the latest West African angel investor and follows those launched in Mali, Benin and Senegal. The network aims to facilitate investments of between $20,000 to $300,000, and helps develop the nascent Gambian start-up and investment ecosystem by empowering hubs, incubators and accelerators and providing an entry point for international
investors and diaspora interested in investing in the country.
In the initial stages of setting up a network, angel investors tend to be risk-averse and unwilling to part with large amounts. ITC will continue its work in the Gambian entrepreneurship ecosystem to build companies that are investment-ready through business training, coaching and investment readiness bootcamps.
In addition, ITC will continue to support the development of GAIN through technical assistance and de-risking incentives. ITC is in the process of developing co-investment grants to offer supplementary funding to enterprises that are able to raise investment from business angels and other approved investors. The grants generally help lower the risk perception of investors by better capitalizing the enterprises and provide a longer ‘runway’ to achieving business development milestones that lead to stronger businesses.