In February, six Investors’ Circle (IC) investor members convened at a rooftop restaurant in downtown Nairobi – four of them in Africa for the first time. Over a thousand hours, 50 meetings, eight company site visits, and one rocky rural bus ride later, the importance – and opportunity – of investing there was clear.

While impact investor interest in international investing is increasing, it’s difficult for US investors to understand the opportunities, challenges, and risks around investing in emerging markets. This Investor Days: Nairobi immersion trip was one of IC’s newest approaches to building international market and investment knowledge in East Africa’s global health landscape.

Through a partnership with Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD), IC created this two-week immersion opportunity to overcome these investor challenges and to inform the global health impact investing ecosystem. SEAD brings together interdisciplinary partners through a coordinated effort across Duke University and leverages institutional relationships and networks to create an integrated global health social entrepreneurship hub for diverse stakeholders across the globe.

We brought six members to Nairobi with us. The agenda for Investor Days: Nairobi included attendance at the Sankalp Summit, engaging with local contacts on the ground in East Africa, and visiting with eight global health entrepreneurs over site visits. These three components of the trip sought to not only provide an immersion into the global health opportunities but also to dive deep into the landscape through education, forums, and meeting with prominent local investors and health care professionals.

The Sankalp Summit convened global inclusive development dialogues with entrepreneurs, impact investors, corporates, and governments and focused on spurring the entrepreneurship economy. It was here that IC members and staff led a sector-based conversation with over thirty attendees, participated in a sector showcase which resulted in two companies receiving IC investor interest, participated in the SEAD Report Launch Event, and attended a health panel led by Villgro Kenya, an early-stage social enterprise incubator that supports innovative healthcare businesses. The summit started conversations with entrepreneurs and investors that lasted the duration of the trip and continue today. Two of the global health site visits were SEAD innovators, Afya Research and Jacaranda Health. Investors also met with a few later-stage companies, MicroEnsure, access.mobile, and Burn Manufacturing. These visits illustrated the potential for good health investments and allowed the investors to learn these entrepreneurs’ thoughts on the market opportunity. This range of stage was helpful for investors to experience and helped to inform their understanding of the ecosystem. Other site visits included Toto Health, Jibu, OneDegreeSolar, SunCulture, and GreenChar. When investors weren’t engaging with entrepreneurs, they were busy learning with and from locals. Attendees participated in i3N’s Capital Roundtable with seven local angel investors, had meetings with prominent local healthcare professionals, and hosted a happy hour with over 30 local investors.

“Prior to this trip, East Africa was not on my radar simply because I didn’t know much—about the region, the market, and where the opportunities are. It was a life-changing trip. I’m now completely interested and eager to continue what’s been started,”

says Lisa Hodges, an IC member who participated in the trip. You may read more IC member investor perspectives by visiting Luni Libe’s blog. There is much to learn about investing in East Africa specifically and in the global health sector broadly, and we will be using our Investor Days: Nairobi experience as the foundation for sharing and continuing these important conversations.

Stay tuned for more on the global health landscape, the challenges, the opportunities, and the potential for investment. Over the next four weeks, IC will release weekly blog posts with insights and takeaways from our travel, culminating in the official launch of our Global Health Interest Group on July 19th – all interested capital providers are welcome to join us, so please register for that webinar here. We look forward engaging with you in the coming weeks!

The research described above was produced as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD), in collaboration with the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke (CASE), Innovations in Healthcare, Investors’ Circle and funded by USAID.