XSML is a fund manager investing in frontier markets in Central and East Africa. XSML, eXtra Small Medium Large, aims to grow small businesses into medium and large enterprises.

International investors are increasingly interested in emerging markets. Yet small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to have difficulty finding the right financing.

XSML, eXtra Small Medium Large, founded in 2008, bridges this gap by investing in small businesses to help them grow into medium and large enterprises.

XSML manages three funds with a focus on frontier markets in Central and East Africa: the Central Africa SME Fund, the African Rivers Fund and African Rivers Fund III. Our local teams of 14 investment and operating professionals have experience in emerging and frontier markets in private equity, corporate and development banking and corporate restructuring with offices in Kinshasa (DRC) and Kampala (Uganda).

A brief introduction to XSML


2008 – Founding of XSML

November 2010 – Close of first fund under management, the Central Africa SME Fund, which invests debt and equity in SMEs in frontier markets as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR).

2015 – CASF is fully invested

February 2016 – Close of second fund, the African Rivers Fund (ARF).  This fund has a similar mandate as CASF but extends its geographical reach to Congo-Brazzaville and Uganda. Between the two funds, total assets under management are now at USD 69 million.

December 2018 – ARF is 80% invested

December 2019 – ARF is over 100% invested

August 2020 – First close of our third fund, African Rivers Fund III (ARF III) – extending geographical reach to include Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, Uganda and Angola. Between the three funds, total assets under management are at over USD 120 million.

March 2022 – ARF III reaches its hard cap of USD 85 million with additional commitments from Norfund (new investor), Swedfund (top-up) and Proparco.  Total assets under management are now at USD 160 million.


Investment Policy

Growing a small business into a medium or large company in a frontier market can generate excellent financial returns for investors, while improving access to markets and products and creating jobs. However, expertise and guidance are critical for businesses to achieve sustainable growth. XSML collaborates closely with management and uses a separate technical assistance facility to support investee companies in areas that require extra attention, before and / or after investment.

Key investment criteria

Early on we establish if we are the right fit with an entrepreneur. Amongst others we look at the following factors:

  • Access to products / services – in country production and/or increase access for the general population;
  • Common goals – willingness entrepreneur to work with us towards common goals;
  • Growth – opportunity for business growth;
  • Track record – experience in sector or proven success in business;
  • Trust – can we develop a relationship built on trust

The giraffe is symbolic of XSML’s philosophy.

As the tallest animal in the world, the giraffe scans the distance to appreciate risks early on and to reach for the best leaves on the trees. Like the giraffe, XSML finds the best opportunities in risky markets.