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The Wood Family Trust – Rwanda Tea Farm

Promoting venture philanthropy through legal certainty

We have been working with The Wood Family Trust on a ground-breaking philanthropic venture in Rwanda.

Our ground breaking work with The Wood Family on philanthropic venture in Rwanda demonstrate our belief that the law can be used as a means to create a stable framework for investment in areas which might otherwise be deemed as 'too risky'. We also believe that the principle can go further to achieve social as well as commercial gains.

We worked on a deal in which the charity, which was established by prominent oil and gas magnate Sir Ian Wood in 1997, will purchase two tea processing factories in Mulindi and Shagasha.

Workers in the factories will be trained and provide with improved facilities to boost productivity. Once the Trust has placed the business on a sustainable footing and broken even on its investment, ownership of the factory will be given to its workers by way of a share issue. The initiative will be non-profit making and is expected to be completed within 7 to 10 years.  The Trust is applying classic private equity discipline to a philanthropic venture. Tea is a massive cash crop and the factories in Rwanda can be turned around to generate profit for the benefit of the workers and the local communities.

The concept of 'venture philanthropy' may not be new, but using a proper legal framework to protect the investment and mitigate the risks associated with legal structures in emergent nations required an innovative approach.

This project has not been without its legal challenges. However, our Pan-African experience spans more than 40 countries over 30 years, giving us a depth of insight on key political, economic, commercial and regulatory issues.

For instance, only the factories could be bought and not the agricultural land due to ancient trial rights. We believe that this and other knotty legal issues have been successfully negotiated as part of our work - to the benefit of the investors and people of Rwanda.

Key Contacts