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Press release: ECI continues to transform humanitarian aid with the acquisition of Asili

A group of people from South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, gather in a forest. They are gathered around an older woman who is reacting to a drink of coffee she has just taken from a paper cup.

Asili to Become the Social Business Platform of Eastern Congo Initiative 

Nespresso Works Together with ECI On New Single-Origin Coffee and Commits to Helping Provide Access to Water and Healthcare to Over 80,000 Farming Families in Eastern Congo 

MINNEAPOLIS, August 18, 2020 — Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) today announced the acquisition of Asili, a platform for self-sufficient business, built to work with and for people in the world’s poorest places. 

The Asili business model is a transformative way to build and sustain world-class services in local communities. It reinvents humanitarian aid as startup capital for lasting businesses, operated by and for the people who need them. After an initial one-time philanthropic investment, every Asili business is built to operate independently and reinvest its profits in the community. Asili water points and health clinics are serving 120,000 customers in eastern Congo every day, at prices they can afford, and at world-class standards of quality. Most importantly, Asili services are not low-quality humanitarian aid for emergencies. They are vital infrastructure, built for and by the communities they serve—for life.

This year, Eastern Congo Initiative is celebrating 10 years of revolutionary humanitarian leadership and advocacy for the limitless potential of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Founded by Ben Affleck and Whitney Williams, ECI supports visionary Congolese community leaders who are solving the country’s most urgent problems. Through collaborative grantmaking, international advocacy, and policy leadership, ECI works shoulder to shoulder with Congolese communities as they build health, freedom and prosperity for life. 

The shore of Lake Kivu is one of the world’s great coffee regions, but most Congolese farmers are not coffee drinkers themselves. Gaudencia Mw’Hungwe, one of the ECI’s partner smallholders, is among the farmers who are growing the beans for Nespresso’s new organic coffee, made exclusively by the farmers of Minova, South Kivu. In these photos, Gaudencia tries her own coffee for the first time. It was surprising!

ECI’s acquisition of the Asili platform points the way to a new model for ethical commerce. One of the first Asili programs as part of the merger is a collaboration with Nespresso and the farmers of eastern Congo to release a special single-origin coffee called Kahawa ya Congo, created exclusively from USDA-certified organic beans grown by the farming families of the Minova region. On the shores of Lake Kivu, the region was once a leading supplier of gourmet coffee beans, but a generation of constant armed conflict almost destroyed Congo’s coffee sector. Nevertheless, the farmers in Minova persevered, and Nespresso is funding the initial capital cost of Asili water and healthcare infrastructure in Minova for farming families. Customers in the United States can buy Kahawa ya Congo, starting today, from Nespresso.

“With Asili, ECI will take our transformative vision for health, freedom and prosperity farther than ever before,” says ECI executive director Abraham Leno. “Asili represents a revolutionary new model for providing world-class services in the world’s most challenging places — not just during emergencies, but for life. The Asili business model provides a new vision for commerce, which is why some of the world’s most visionary companies have begun to invest in Asili services to build a long-term relationship with the people and communities who supply the products they need. Nespresso joins other partners — including USAID, charitable foundations, and a growing list of private companies — in recognizing the power and promise of this new model of global stewardship. For people accustomed to minimum-standard foreign aid, Asili services bring far more than water and healthcare: they bring respect, dignity, and an enduring commitment to the wellbeing of the community.” 

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About Eastern Congo Initiative

Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), a subsidiary of Alight, is the first U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The organization works shoulder to shoulder with Congolese communities as they build health, freedom and prosperity for life. Founded by Ben Affleck and Whitney Williams in 2010, ECI has invested more than $10 million to support visionary Congolese community leaders who are solving the country’s most urgent problems. With ECI’s support, those organizations have made life better for tens of thousands of people—60 percent of them girls and women. With partners like Starbucks, Theo Chocolate and Nespresso, ECI has introduced the excellence of Congolese coffee and cocoa to customers worldwide. ECI’s transformative business model Asili provides clean water and world-class primary healthcare to 120,000 customers in Congo every single day. Thanks to the brilliance of the Congolese people, ECI is transforming the whole idea of humanitarian aid.

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