Private equity as a force for good in Africa


Private equity in Africa is thriving. [Private equity being an asset class of equity and debt in operating companies that is (generally) not publicly traded on a stock exchange].

At its basic, PE is about how you can use money, expertise and relationships to grow businesses  – surely capitalism at its most raw. However PE has had its share of detractors.

For example, in the US, critics say that PE make money the wrong way — buying “target companies,” making people redundant, piling on debt and selling the remnants in tidied up boxes  – which by then are doomed to fail. To make matters worse, private equity firms get tax breaks, paying 15% on profits instead of 35%.

But the industry and its defenders, say it is a strong creator of jobs and value, and a vital source of outsized and diversified returns for pension funds, university endowments and other investment pools that serve ordinary people.

Africa is at a different stage of growth to the developed world and growth capital is what Africa needs and PE provides. Africa needs all forms of capital so PE capital in Africa has been welcome and has not had much of the criticism (at least so far!!) that PE has had in the developed world.

A plug for AVCA……

So PE in Africa is different to PE in the developed world. And this difference is epitomised by AVCA(African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association) – the pan-African industry body that promotes and enables private investment in Africa. AVCA’s mission statement is that ….

AVCA plays an important role as a champion and effective change agent for the industry, educating, equipping and connecting members and stakeholders with independent industry research, best practice training programmes and exceptional networking opportunities.

AVCA’s success in promoting private equity in Africa comes out of creating the right inclusive environment and by making its members feel like they are part of a family.

Africa PE is young … and fun

The Africa PE industry is still young and this youthfulness comes through in its members and their attitudes. Whilst there is obviously competition between PE houses, advisers, funders and other professionals, there is still a sense of camaraderie and cooperation with all involved. RunaAlam (DPI) hit the note on the head when she opened AVCA conference by quoting the African proverb:

If you want to go quickly go alone, if you want to go far, go together…

This diverse membership is united by a common purpose: not only to make money (…a big driver!!!) but also to contribute to Africa and be part of the Africa growth story. That’s what is exciting about working on the continent compared to other regions. And perhaps overlaying all of this is that the Africa PE industry knows how to have fun.

Robbie Brozin (the founder of Nandos from South Africa) recently spoke about how he grew Nandos from one small restaurant to the global chicken piri-piri giant of today. An inspiring story. He had some great one-liners about doing business and the one that stuck was:

My vision was always to have fun and make money and if you are not happy in your job you should just *!!* off and do something else!!!!

AVCA in 2014 into 2015

After AVCA 2014, Dentons (Raj Kulasingam and Nick Plant (head of PE at Dentons)) (http://www.dentons.com) produced an article on the key points from that conference. (www.dentons.com/peavca2014). An excerpt of this with an update from 2015 is set out below:

AFVCA 2015 – not a conference but an industry gathering

There were so many key points at AVCA that it has been difficult to choose which ones to highlight. Miles Morland of Blakeney Capital gave a very entertaining presentation. Reports of his more memorable quotes can be found on Twitter including the following controversial one:

“I would rather trust a Nigerian on a handshake than an American on a signed contract.

Key points on the Africa story from AVCA is set out below:

Table 2 (Acrobat Reader, .pdf)

So where to for PE in Africa

Of course, PE in Africa is not all a bed of roses. There will always be the good, the bad and the ugly in all parts of the world. It’s being able to see beyond the hype and the myths that is key.

Ultimately what is driving growth and PE in Africa is that what Africa wants is what the world wants. Africans have the same aspirations as anyone else. What is needed is the investment to match these aspirations, which is where the opportunity is.

The good news from AVCA is that the overall outlook for PE in Africa is positive but the question is whether this can be sustained to match the ambitions of Africans. Finishing on a positive note…..

We always believe in Africa,[that] our investments can make money there – Johnny el Hachem, CEO, Edmond de Rothschild

Growth needs investment, which needs stability, leadership and the right economic and regulatory framework and policies. That’s the challenge for Africa.

About Dentons

Dentons (http://www.dentons.com) is a global law firm driven to provide a competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected world. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2014 Global Elite Brand Index, Dentons is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality in new and inventive ways. Dentons’ clients now benefit from 3,000 lawyers and professionals in more than 80 locations spanning 50-plus countries. With a legacy of legal experience that dates back to 1742 and builds on the strengths of our foundational firms—Salans, Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC), SNR Denton and McKenna Long & Aldridge—the Firm serves the local, regional and global needs of private and public clients. www.dentons.com.

Source: Dentons


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