LGT Venture Philanthropy provides a three-year follow-on investment to SmartStart to support them in scaling their ECD network across South Africa


LGT VP will support SmartStart to implement their five-year strategy which will extend their network across South Africa and position them to become a delivery platform for nationwide early childhood learning, enabling every child, regardless of their background, to have a strong, smart start to education.


In South Africa, more than one million children aged three to five currently do not attend any form of Early Childhood Development (ECD) program. The overwhelming evidence showing how critical these years are as a foundation for success at school and in life proves that this early learning gap only increases inequality and unemployment. Founded in 2015, SmartStart seeks to fill this ECD gap. SmartStart works with franchisors, traditionally NGOs, who recruit and support franchisees, typically women of less-advantaged backgrounds who have been trained by SmartStart, to provide a structured and enriching daily routine for children within their communities. SmartStart also works with government and leads advocacy efforts to increase the commitment to ECD across the country.

SmartStart’s novel social franchise model has proved highly scalable, affordable and effective. Since its foundation, SmartStart has reached 100’600 children in low-income areas through 9’000 female entrepreneurs at 13 franchisors across the country. Currently, the organization has 38’000 registered children and 5’300 active franchisees.

“Our first year of engagement with SmartStart was far from normal with the pandemic gripping South Africa in an unprecedented healthcare emergency,” recounts Nava Anvari, LGT Venture Philanthropy Investment Manager and SmartStart deal lead. “We were humbled by SmartStart’s response, being at the frontlines of the effort to help children continue learning at home, educating parents on how to encourage learning through play and financially supporting the women in their network. We are thrilled to intensify our commitment and continue with them on this journey.”

LGT VP’s education strategy focuses on scaling solutions in three areas – ECD, primary education and skills development for youth – to fight the current learning and employability crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Read the full press release here.

Contact us