Category Archives: africa venture capital

AVCA 2019 private equity and venture capital conference in Nairobi

The 16th annual conference of African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA) was held from 1st -3rd April 2019 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi. A guest post by Marcela Sinda.

This flagship conference event for the African continent had a fantastic kick-off and turnout, bringing together private equity and venture capital investors who handle a portfolio of over $1.5 trillion in assets. This was according to Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Peter Munya who officially opened the conference on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The goal of this kind of conference, he said, is to expose investors to the diverse prospective investment markets across the Africa as the continent was now being looked at as any other region, with the focus being around checking due diligence, ethics, looking at best practices and asking the same questions around deal sourcing.

 

DFI’s Role: Kenya is an increasingly attractive investment destination and according to AVCA data, it is the 2nd most attractive country for private equity investments in Africa over the next three years and hence an obvious choice to gather the industry players for this conference. The African PE sector has been shaped for decades by DFIs, and at AVCA 2019, there was some discussion about new DFI strategies for investment across Africa. Maria Hakansson, the CEO of Swedfund, noted that, as a community, DFIs could do so much more when it comes to anti-corruption, e-waste management, customer protection principles etc. and that Africa’s portfolio is constantly outperforming in terms of impact compared to other regions portfolio.

Djalal Khimdjee, Deputy CEO of Proparco said SMEs in Africa are essential towards job creation and achieving the sustainable development goals (SDG’s) and that 60% of the 1.5 million jobs that have been created in Africa every month come from SMEs and venture capital firms. He said that PROPARCO and French development agencies had committed £2.5 billion by 2022 to support African MSMEs, including £1 billion through private equity investments. 

Mathew Hunt, Principal at South Suez Capital shared that one of the reasons why investors are in Africa and especially now is because of the tech-driven growth that’s been on the rise in recent years. Venture capital investments are new in Africa and only a handful of funds have grown successfully.  The role of African Development Bank, said Robert Zegers, their Chief Investment Officer, was to now help support the industry and act as anchor investors in these funds as a lot of development agendas can be achieved by generating value through VC’s and great businesses.

The narrative throughout the discussion panels was around the real opportunities Africa presents for investment with building blocks in place such as improved policies, the rise in middle-income earners, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, and enablers such energy, improved infrastructure and technology as pathways that cater for development needs. The most attractive areas for P/E investment were perceived to be consumer-driven sectors (financials, FMCG, agribusiness, healthcare and technology).

Deals Galore: VCs are willing and able to take risks and are looking to invest much more than they did previously. According to the  AVCA report 2018, VCs invested $725.6 Million in 458 deals a 300% leap in the total funding amount and over 127% increase in the number of deals as compared to 2017.  VC fund managers, therefore, need to have great entrepreneurial skills to identify numerous opportunities and create great pipelines for growth and expansion. This is the first generation of PE owners and from the lessons learnt, a good company always attracts a buyer and a great way for VCs to approach funding private companies is to ask; ‘if everything works out, how big can this be?’. But investors ought to be cautious not to misconstrue Africa as a single country with regard to investments, rather, and instead start by breaking down the micro trends in each jurisdiction and analyse the different risks.

Investments, not Aid: Charles Mwebeiha of Sango Capital urged investors to look at Africa while investing, like any other region in the world noting that many times, investing in Africa is made to sound like some sort of assistance. He offered that the issue should be whether returns can be made and reiterated that with good strategies, there is money to be made in Africa.

Women: It was also highlighted that having a gender-sensitive lens when investing is an imperative for an inclusive and fair investment strategy and that, especially in Africa, the number of female entrepreneurs supported is a key metric. There is an even split between male and female entrepreneurs on the continent but less than 2% of those women are getting formal funding as they are often working in hidden, informal sectors.

Exits: A major area of discussion was around exits. Carlos Reyes of the IFC,  pointed out that; “to prepare companies for exits, we try to improve reporting standards, corporate governance and we look at the bench – so if the entrepreneur leaves, who can come in? The succession process is quite important.” Exits are not the easiest but they are not deal-breakers and good exits can be achieved. At Leapfrog Investments, they evaluate exits right at the beginning, by sitting down with the owners to try to understand their dreams for the future so as to align funding with their plans for exiting.

Predictions: And finally, taking a forward look at the sector five years into the future, George Odo, Managing Director of AfricInvest Capital Partners observed that there would be more capital raised from African economies, more policy changes required to mobilise pension funds, much more experienced fund managers, and also more EA players paying attention to Ethiopia.

Glossary
AVCA – Africa Venture Capital Association
EA – East Africa
PE – Private Equity
LP – Limited Partners
DFI – Development Finance Institution
IFC – International Finance Corporation
PROPARCO – A Development Financial Institution partly owned by the French Development Agency
SME – Small Medium Enterprise
MSME – Micro Small & Medium Enterprises
VC – Venture Capital

Stanchart opens eXellerator Lab in Nairobi

Standard Chartered Bank today announced the opening of an innovation lab in Nairobi, its first in Africa.  Run by Standard Chartered Ventures (SC ventures), the eXellerator lab will work with clients, staff, and local fintech companies on banking solutions for the future. This will be the fifth such lab after the first in Singapore, then Hong Kong, San Francisco, Bangalore, London and now Nairobi.

Stanchart Kenya CEO Ngari Kariuki CEO said that SC ventures, launched in March 2018, had a mission to invest in disruption and come up with new business models by partnering with fintechs in Asia, Middle East And Africa, scaling little ideas, giving them a global platform and investing in the companies. Kennedy Mubita the Africa Regional Head for SC Ventures said that the eXellerator was based on principles of human-centred, design, having a lean startup mentality, embracing an entrepreneurial spirit  (enabling staff of the bank to suggest ideas and develop them into products with rewards) and that the bank would also invest in local companies through a $100 million innovation fund. So far they are developing ten ventures drawn from 1,500 ideas submitted globally, with a notable one being Credit Card Buddy from Indonesia.

At a Q&A after the launch, It was queried what pipeline of projects Stanchart would target given that there were very few companies able to absorb series B funding here. The bank will have a country venture challenge, one of three in Africa, and will seek to work with companies to address payment gaps and trust gaps in value chains across all sectors.

Like with the video banking launch, tried and tested in Asia, Nairobi is the launchpad for the eXellerator lab program in Africa. Other banks with innovation labs in Nairobi include KCB with its Vooma Lab and I&M bank, which has a digital factory, called iCube.

TEF 2019 class unveiled

The fifth cycle of beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) entrepreneurs program was unveiled on Friday, March 22 in Abuja, Nigeria.

This year 216,000 applied to join (up from 151,000 in 2018), with 90,000 being women during the window that opened on January 1. After an extensive shortlisting process, 3,050 entrepreneurs, from 54 African countries, were selected to receive $5,000 capital for their business ventures, 12 weeks of tailored training, and the opportunity to attend the annual TEF Forum in July 2019.

Over the years, more strategic partners have come forward to assist the Tony Elumelu Foundation to expand the impact of their ten-year $100 million program that aims to empower 10,000 entrepreneurs and create 1 million jobs and in 2019, partners are providing funding support for 2,500 entrepreneurs.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is sponsoring 1,000 entrepreneurs (a commitment worth $5 million) and matching the support of the Tony Elumelu Foundation this year. Also, the United National Development Program (UNDP) is sponsoring 754 from 45 countries, while the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is sponsoring 180 entrepreneurs from conflict-hit countries. Others are Seme City (from the Federal Republic of Benin), the US Consulate in Lagos (sponsoring 20), the Anambra State Government, Indorama, and the Government of Botswana (sponsoring 20).

Present at the unveiling, that was livestreamed around the world, was Aisha Buhari, the First Lady of Nigeria, and Tony Elumelu, who founded the Program. Others were the Foundation CEO Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, her predecessor Parminder Vir, TEF partner representatives, and the media.

Also at the event, a team of evaluators from Accenture explained the selection and short-list process they had done since the application deadline of March 1 2019. They also provided a breakdown of applications by country, gender, business stage, and business industry, with the highest number of applicants for 2019 engaged in agriculture, ICT and education sectors. They also highlighted trends in the program over the years including the overall increase in the number of female applicants.

All the applicants are now part of TEF Connect, which, with over 600,000 members, is the largest social network of African entrepreneurs. On the Connect platform, they can chat with fellow business owners in different African countries, access mentors, learning materials and network and share business ideas.

M&A Moment: January 2019

The Competition Authority of Kenya recently approved the completion of several corporate merger and acquisition (M&A) deals. They are interesting in that they reveal some revenue and deal value numbers that private companies, acquirers, and equity funds usually don’t make public.  The deals were all approved with exclusions as the transactions between the affected companies  will not affect competition negatively and they met the threshold for exclusion under the “merger threshold guidelines.”

The deals and exclusions include:

Airline/ Oil/Energy/Mining M&A

  • (The Competition Authority of Kenya [CA-K]) .. Excludes the proposed acquisition of 51% of Selenkei Ltd by Frontier Energy as the acquirer assets for the preceding year (2017) was KShs. 225 million while the target’s assets was KShs. 4 million and the combined assets valued at KShs. 222 million meet the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of control of Paygo Energy by Novastar Ventures East Africa Fund 1 LP and FPCI Energy Access Venture Fund as the acquirers had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs 2 million
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 51% of Cedate by Frontier Energy as the acquirer assets for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 225 million while the target’s assets was KShs. 355 million and the combined assets valued at KShs. 580 million meet the threshold for exclusion.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the entire issued share capital in Iberafrica Power (E. A) by AEP Energy Africa
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of control of Consolidated Infrastructure Group by Fairfax Africa Holdings.
  • edit The CA-K has approved the acquisition of Cemtech Ltd by Simba Cement, which is owned by the Devki Group. Cemtech has limestone and clay deposits and licenses for extraction in West Pokot but has been dormant for a decade. Its shareholders have been looking for a partner (another deal had been mooted in 2013 ) to finance a cement plant, and Simba plan to resuscitate it by acquiring its land, business, intellectual property, records, equipment, goodwill, licenses, stock and third party rights. Simba has an 8% share of the cement market behind Bamburi (33%), Mombasa Cement (16%), East African Portland (15%), Savannah (15%), National (8)and Athi River Mining (13%) (March 2019).

Banking and Finance: Finance, Law, & Insurance M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 44% of Cellulant Corporation by The Rise Fund Certify, L.P. as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 93 million for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 752 million and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 844 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 12% of Pezesha Africa with certain controlling rights by Consonance Kuramo Special Opportunities Fund 1 as the acquirer’s turnover for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 6.2 million while the target’s turnover was KShs. 3.1 million
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 100% of Serian Asset Managers by Cytonn Asset Managers as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 0.9 million for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 1.1 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 1.9 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • The Competition Authority approved the acquisition of indirect control of Abraaj Investment Management by Actis International. Abraaj controls Star Foods Holdings, which ultimately controls Java House Ltd in Kenya.
  • CA-K approved the proposed purchase and subscription of up to 25% shareholding in Prime Bank by Africinvest Azure SPV

Agri-Business, Food & Beverage M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 99.9% of  Twiga Foods Limited by Twiga Holdings as the acquirer has no operations in Kenya and therefore had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 140 million and the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Anchor Flour Millers Company by Archaic Industries Kenya as the acquirer is a natural person with no business activities and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 97.3 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of class B ordinary shares in Fertiplant East Africa by Oikocredit, Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society U.A as the acquirer is a natural person and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s assets were valued at KShs. 47.5 million.
  • The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of 100% of Art-Caffe Coffee and Bakery Ltd by Artcaffe Group
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of certain assets and part of the business of Kreative Roses limited by Kongoni River Farm on condition that the target retains 43 of its employees while the acquirer employs the remaining 362 employees for at least one year after the completion of the proposed transaction.
  • edit The biscuit manufacturing and selling business carried on by Golden Biscuits (1985) at L.R. No. 209/4260, Kampala Road, Industrial Area, Nairobi, will be transferred to Trufoods Limited pursuant to the terms of a business and asset transfer agreement entered into between the Transferor and Transferee on 7th February, 2019.

Health and Medical, Pharmaceutical M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 32.5% of the shares with certain veto rights in King Medical Supplies by LGT Capital Invest Mauritius PCC Cell E/VP as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 20.9 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 32.5% of the shares with certain Veto Rights in City Eye Hospital by LGT Capital Invest Mauritius PCC Cell E/VP as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 62.1 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of sole control of Hain Lifescience East Africa Kenya by Bruker Daltonik GMBH as the acquirer’s turnover for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 102 million while the target’s turnover was KShs. 106 million and the combined turnover of KShs. 208 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the manufacturing and distribution business of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company (Kenya) by Shalina Healthcare Kenya as the acquirer’s assets for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 0.4 million while the target’s value of asset was KShs. 43 million and the combined value of asset of KShs. 44 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of certain assets of Maghreb Pharmacy by Goodlife Pharmacy as the target had a turnover of KShs. 15 million for the preceding year 2016 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 60% shareholding in AK Life Sciences by CSSAF Lifeco Holdings as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 377 million for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 125 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 503 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • The competition authority approved the proposed acquisition of the entire share capital in Arysta Lifescience Inc by UPL Corporation.
  • The Competition Authority authorized the proposed investment by Tunza Health Investments in Pyramid Healthcare Ltd.
  • The Competition Authority approved, the acquisition of 100% of the business and assets of Desbro (Kenya) by Brenntang (Holding) B.V. on condition that Brenntang retains the 80 employees of Desbro for a period of one year. Desbro distributes over 600 industrial chemicals to various industries in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

Logistics, Engineering, & Manufacturing M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 100% of the shares in JGH Marine A/S and JOHS. Gram-Hanssen A/S by Pitzner Gruppen Holding A/S  as the acquirer has no presence in Kenya and, therefore, had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 392 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the assets and business of Socabelec East Africa by Cockerill East Africa as the acquirer had a turnover of KShs. 193, million for the preceding year 2016 while target had a turnover of KShs. 226 million the preceding year 2016 and therefore, the combined turnover of KShs. 419 million meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 55% of  Air Sea Logistics (ASL) by Expolanka Freight PZCO as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover for the preceding year 2017 was KShs. 8 million and therefore meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the assets of Rich Logistics (K) by Bigcold Kenya as the acquirer is newly incorporated and hence, had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target had a turnover of KShs. 48 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the stationery and shavers manufacturing, sales and distribution of stationery, lighters and shavers business of Haco Industries Kenya  by BIC East Africa.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the Kenyan freight forwarding business and assets of Dodwell & Co (East Africa) and those of Inchcape Shipping Services Kenya by ISS Global Forwarding (Kenya) – which is owned by Investment Corporate of Dubai (ICD). 
  • The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of the assets and business of Blue Nile Wire Products by Blue Nile Rolling Mills.
  • The Competition Authority approved the acquisition of the assets and business of Wild Elegance Fashions by Wild Elegance Africa.
  • The Competition Authority approved the proposed acquisition of 73.6% of Sintel Security Print Solutions by Ramco Plexus. Sintel is involved in the printing and supply of scratch cards, highly secured cheques and custom labels.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Office Mart by Sai Office Supplies
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Lino Stationers by Sai Office Supplies on condition that the acquirer employs not less than 57 out of the 74 employees after the completion of the proposed transaction.

Real Estate, Tourism, & Supermarkets M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 40% of Dufry Kenya by Ananta as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target had a turnover of KShs. 269 million for the preceding year 2016 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed joint venture between Scan-Thor Group and Otto International GmbH as the acquirer has no market presence in Kenya and, therefore, had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 11 million for the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • Excludes the proposed transfer of 100% of Norbu Manda Pwani Ltd to Margot Kiser from the provisions of Part IV of the as the acquirer is a natural person and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s assets were valued at KShs. 47.5 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the business and assets of Giraffe Ark Game Lodge by Archaic Industries Kenya as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 51.5 million
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the business of Ocean Sports (2006) by Ocean Sports Hotel as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s turnover was KSh. 44.6 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 34.48% of African Forest Lodges by Earth Friends LLP as the acquirer is a newly incorporated company and has no assets or turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s assets was KShs. 197 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of the (Furniture, fittings, equipment and Prefabricated building) assets of Me To We Ltd by Bogani Training, excludes the proposed acquisition of the (motor vehicle) assets of Me To We Ltd by Minga Ltd and excludes the proposed acquisition of the assets  (vehicles, beads, stocks) of Me To We Ltd by Araveli For Mamas as the acquirers had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s turnover for the preceding year 2016 was KShs. 68 million and therefore, meets the threshold for exclusion.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of control of Tumaini Self Service by Sokoni Retail Kenya. Tumani operates retail stores in Nairobi, Kisumu and Kajiado.
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of Nova Academics Tatu City Property Ltd by Summit Real Estate Pty
  • The Competition Authority of Kenya approved the proposed acquisition of 100% of Hillcrest Investment Holdings by Education Asia Holdings – which is an investment holding company owned by GEMS Global Schools. Hillcrest operates three learning institutions in Nairobi – Hillcrest Early Years, Hillcrest Preparatory School and Hillcrest Secondary School.

Telecommunications, Media & Publishing M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 39% of the shareholding in the Star Publication by Avandale Investments and 10% of the shareholding by Adil Arshed Khawaja as the acquirer had no turnover for the financial year ending 30th June 2017 while the target’s turnover was KShs. 679 million.
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of Mobile Web (trading as Hivisasa) by Novastar Ventures Easy Africa Fund 1 L.P.  as the acquirer had no turnover for the preceding year 2017 while target had a turnover of KShs. 14 million or the preceding year 2017 and therefore, the transaction meets the threshold for exclusion.

Other M&A

  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of Dc Xiang Kenya Company by Lin Bingwei from the provisions of Part IV of the Act as the acquirer is a natural person with no business activities and had no turnover or assets for the preceding year 2017 while the target is a newly incorporated company and had no turnover or assets;
  • Excludes the proposed acquisition of 100% of the shares in Kesar Investments by Dipak Lakshman Halai and Ramesh Kurji Visram as the acquirer are individuals and had no turnover for the preceding year 2016 while the target’s assets was KES 0.07 million
  • CA-K approved the proposed acquisition of Zelepak Africa by PPG  Holdings

CA-K, as a regulator, has not yet reported on two mega deals; the proposed bank merger between CBA and NIC and the buyout of Kenol by Rubis that will lead to a delisting of the company. edit: Later in January 2019, the Competition Authority approved the Rubis-Kenol deal along with a few other deals. 

Also, see some other deals approved six years ago.

$1 = Kshs 101

After Office Hours with Kris Senanu at the Nairobi Garage

Last Friday, Nairobi Garage hosted an “After Office Hours ” chat session with Kris Senanu, the Managing Director- Enterprise at Telkom Kenya. He is also a successful venture capitalist with diverse investments and is also a judge on KCB Lion’s Den, a televised local version of the Shark Tank show, in which entrepreneurs pitch for investors to fund their companies.

Excerpts from the Q&A  

Balancing Work and Investments: He has a fun day job at Telkom, but he’s an insomniac and is able to do investing work from 6 PM to midnight. He started investing as a “terrible hobby” when he was 21 and he has a high appetite for risk.

He’s Not Just Invested in Tech: “Investments depends on what is the value to me, the community, country and profitability.” He started his first business Yaka Yeke which was about bringing West African fashion, which he liked, to East Africa. Later he got a partner and started Mama Ashanti restaurant because he wanted to eat West African food and saw there was a demand for that.

He doesn’t own any company. He created Blackrock, with his partners, which he doesn’t manage, to consolidate and oversee his investments. They take a maximum of 33% of equity and let the other shareholders deal with the heavy tasks of managing companies while they provide guidance.  He puts in money based on plans, and milestones and has people who check on those. While he may go serve drinks at one of their bars, he does not dwell on the daily numbers but will read reports late at night.

Funding Decisions: He said a key thing for any entrepreneurs seeking funds from investors was to know what type of money to seek. It was not about “do I need equity or debt?” and what amount to ask for, but also about what you need at any particular time – one is for operational expense, the other is for long-term expense. if you go for equity, there is some money that is good for you, and others to avoid – and some companies get money and right from month one of the new funding, the business or environment changes.

He invests $10,000 to $500,000, and takes on riskier investments – and if it is an area he can add value and scale, it will get investment. He also looks at how passionate an investor is  “are they willing to do this for 10 years or is it just a side-hustle?”. Spreadsheets are powerful tools that guide, but also confuse with numbers that can obscure real basic business. Investment decisions take up to six months as they use evaluate, build relationships with, and get to understand the entrepreneurs.

Scaling Companies:  His main challenge in the last few years has been scalability – as he says there are good businesses around, but they don’t have the ability to scale. While many do okay in a single market or single country, when numbers are good, investors want to see the businesses go multi-market or multi-country.

He said Nairobi has a lot of venture capital, angel funders, and private equity investors – all with money and who are willing to invest in businesses, but that the lot of money is chasing the few businesses that show scalability, and the ability to be sustainable and profitable in the long-term.

Foreigners Getting Start-Up Funding in Nairobi: On this, he said capital will flow to places and spaces where the capital feels comfortable, and entrepreneurs in Nairobi are going to have to make people more comfortable investing big money with us – and to change that narrative about “capital flowing to foreign faces in local spaces.” He said that it could be a case that some local businesses seeking investors were not fully baked and were perhaps at a stage where they were better off going of debt (convertibles/loans) rather than equity funding. He mentioned an episode of the Lion’s Den where someone mentioned Cellulant in a way that offended him. He said that many managers at Cellulant were former colleagues of his and he had watched the company grow for many years, overcoming many tough times as it ventured across Africa. He said entrepreneurs have to, know when to raise capital, know what to ask for, and that Cellulant was now attracting big funding rounds because of their strategic funding decisions and people have to get better at that in Nairobi.

His Work Philosophy: “if you work your whole life for money that is sad; you have to find purpose.” His is to invest in someone else’s visions and help them grow their companies – At Swift, he was employee number 7 and the company grew to 150 staff, while at Access Kenya, he was employee number three, after the founders. He endeavours to grow businesses, create employment, make profits, then exit and move on to the next one.

Night Club IPO? “I have a philosophy is to create one million jobs” but he Knows that is not going to happen through companies, but if he can enable, through his cash, other entrepreneurs to create 10 or 20 or 50 jobs, he will do it. From 2009 he was saving $200 per month, along with some friends who planned to attend the World Cup in South Africa. But he really had no interest in watching soccer and after his wife persuaded him to meet with a young entrepreneur, he ended up giving him the money he had set aside for the World Cup. “I liked the guy, his swag and ideas.” That young man was Amor Thige and the idea was to put money into a nightclub called Skylux Lounge. It later became the top club in Nairobi for several years and changed the nightlife scene.

The Skylux experience led him to invest in another group Tribeka which went on to open five nightclubs – Tribeka, Rafikiz,  Zodiak, Fahrenheit and Natives, and they later added Ebony and Marina Bay at English Point, Mombasa. At its height the group had a turnover of Kshs 87 million a month, rounding out to a billion shillings a year – but what mattered to him more was that the chain was employing 472 people, which was more than the 380 jobs at Access Kenya, a listed company. They also considered doing an IPO for the group, seeing as Kenyans who liked drinking would also like to own a piece of the company, and some of their clubs cost as much as Kshs  60 million to build out. 

Where to Find Investment Information and Data? He said there’s so much diversity in Nairobi and cited a few conversations in sports bars about agribusiness that are leading him into investing in macadamia nuts. He is now doing research, scouting for companies and the best places to grow macadamia over the next few years – “it all depends on who you hang with and the conversations you are having”. He said you can get data on private companies from the right people who have no reason to embellish data, and added that even public companies in Kenya and South Africa audited by top firms are later found to have cooked their books.

Why Telkom Kenya?: He said he entered the telecommunications business while there was a giant monopoly, the Kenya Posts & Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC) – that had low-quality, high prices and poor service – and which constricted the growth of communications at the time. So when Access Kenya was sold to Dimension Data he saw working to revamp Telkom Kenya as his next challenge – to grow a viable challenger that disrupts, gives choice and opportunity in the era of another dominant company (read Safaricom). He sees this as his national service to give back to the people of Kenya, through the government, and the ecosystem, and that while people in the room may not appreciate it now, they will in five years.

Decision-Making:
  • Most difficult decision; firing the smartest person at the company, but who had the worst attitude. it was tough but it was for the greater good of the business.
  • Best decision; sticking to technology. Tech brings change and motion process every day, He’s never bored, he wakes up to have fun. It started while he was selling clothes and Wangari Mathai’s niece asked him to join her at Swift Global and use his sales skills to also sell devices and he’s never looked back.
  • Kris Senanu on his worst decision/regret; not having children earlier.