An African gender-lens equity fund proves that traditional investors are leaving money on the table, because investing in women brings superior performance.
Chika Russell left her home in Nigeria for the United Kingdom at the age of six. But those early years of family cooking and traditional recipes inspired her career, because she fell in love with the local street food made by Nigerian women — “dodo” fried plantain, roasted yam, and the small, more intense variety of peanuts grown in the country, called “epa.”
As an adult, Chika noticed that African food is hugely under-represented in the UK snack market. In 2014, after seven years working in finance, she created her own company. CHIKA’S sources unique ingredients from across Africa and works directly with communities in Nigeria to offer healthy, hand-made snacks to British consumers.
“I wanted to do something impactful for other people,” says Chika, “and have the most successful business possible.”
As a way to give back to the women who inspired her, Chika launched Snacks4Change, a partnership with World Vision, which will provide 38 000 girls access to education by 2025 and build schools for children across Africa in the next decade.
One of CHIKA’S investors is Alitheia IDF, a gender-lens African investment fund led by two female founding partners, Tokunboh Ishmael and Polo Leteka. The European Investment Bank signed a $24.6 million investment in the pioneering fund in November 2021, enabling Alitheia to reach its target size of $100 million. It’s the EU bank’s first investment in a private equity fund that focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises with a gender lens in Africa.