Category Archives: africa venture capital

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.

Cellulant investment megal deal

Yesterday Cellulant announced a new deal record Series C financing round to grow the digital payments company into markets on the African continent where two-thirds of the population remains unbanked.
The investment deal for $47.5 million (Kshs 4.8) billion was led by the TPG Rise Fund alongside Endeavor Catalyst and Satya Capital. The company is now in 11 countries in Africa and reaching 40 million customers. These include 7 million farmers on Agrikore an agri-business platform in Nigeria.
A recent report on the financing of fintech companies released by the East Africa Venture Capital Association (EAVCA) noted that there were trends towards the financing of non-traditional companies, who were involved in decentralized networks and enabling the use of alternative data to develop new scoring models. Also that once such companies enabled customers to have mobile wallets, their usage can be more frequent and the platforms can be extended towards government, utilities and other payments. The report noted other recent large financing deals included $80 million (of debt) to M-Kopa, the pay-as-you-go-solar firm and $65 million to Branch, the lending app.

The team at the signing go the Cellulant financing deal.

Part of the new funding will go towards building a world-class payments team,  according to Ken Njoroge, the co-founder and Group CEO of Cellulant.  The new investors join the other shareholders at Celluant who are Velocity Capital, Progression Capital Africa, and TBL Mirror Fund while representatives of the TPG Rise Fund will join the board of Cellulant. Other TPG Growth investments in Africa include Gro Intelligence (an agricultural data business firm), Frontier (a platform which powers Cars45, a second-hand car-sale site in Nigeria) and Ecoles Yassamine (a Moroccan private school network).
Read more on this at the Cellulant blog.

Vivo Energy – London IPO prospectus peek

Last week Vivo Energy had the largest African listing at the London Stock Exchange since 2005 and the largest London IPO so far in 2018. Vivo  raised £548 million by selling 27.7% of the company at 165 pence per share, which valued Vivo at £1.98 billion.

The company which operates fuel businesses in 15 Africa countries, will have a secondary listing in Johannesburg while it will report primarily to the London exchange.

A peek at the 288-page prospectus

Performance: In 2017 revenue increased by 16% to $6.6 billion and earnings before taxes were $210 million, a 21% increase. Revenue was 66% from retail (Shell fuel stations, convenience stores, restaurants) and 29% from commercial business (large customers, LPG), with the rest from lubricants business.

Vivo has Subsidiaries: in Madagascar, Tunisia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Uganda, Kenya Ghana, Mali Mauritius, Morocco, Cape Verde) and a 50% investment in Shell & Vitol Lubricants. All these companies are registered in Netherlands or Mauritius. Prices are regulated in 12 of the 15 countries that they operate in, including Kenya.

Engen: The company is in the process of buying Engen for $399 million, and this will comprise a payment of $121 million in cash and 123 million new shares of Vivo, after which it is expected that Engen will own 9.3% of the company. The Engen deal which is expected to be completed later in 2018, adds 300 stations and brings on 9 new countries to the group.

Johannesburg: Another 10% of Vivo is being availed to get the company listed in South Africa. The listing at Johannesburg will cost $16.3 million which includes payments for legal advice $4M (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer), $2.6M to the reporting auditors & accountants (PWC), other legal advisor fees of $1.5M and $142,000 to Bowman, JSE fees for listing and document inspection of $180,000, and $7.1 million in other expenses in South Africa.

Taxes: Sale of shares in the UK will attract a stamp tax duty of 0.5% of the offer price, while a tax of 0.25% is payable on every sale in South Africa.

Managers & Employees: There is an extensive listing in the prospectus on Vivo’s key managers and directors, their roles, compensation and other benefits. For directors, it lists current and past directorships e.g. Temitope Lawani, the co-founder and Managing Partner of Helios Investment Partners, has 47 current directorships. A top Kenyan official is David Mureithi, the Executive Vice President for Retail, Marketing, and East & Southern Africa.

Vivo has a long-term incentive plan for executives and senior directors and also an IPO share plan for employees. They have a total of 2,349 employees, with 240 in Kenya, which is third in employ size behind Morocco (579) and Tunisia (270).

In Kenya: they had sales of $1.3 billion in 2017 up from $1 billion in 2016. They have 189 stations in the country (56% of which are in Nairobi) and are the number one in the country (due to the strong Shell brand) with a 27% market share. They also supply jet fuel at four airports and sell lubricants. And while employees of Engen have just filed objections to the deal in Kenya, going by past transactions, Kenya’s Competition Authority will approve a deal as long as there is no severe loss of jobs.

Shareholders: Prior to the listing were Vitol Africa B.V. 41.6%, VIP Africa II B.V. 13.3%, (Helios) HIP Oil B.V. 2.4% and HIP Oil 2 B.V. 41.8%. After the deal, with a full subscription, it is expected that Vitol goes to 28.9%, VIP to 9.2% and HIP 2 to 30%.

Litigation: A government ministry in DRC has tried to put a hold on the sale of the Engen subsidiary in DRC (in which the government owns 40%), but Vivo believe the case has no basis and are contenting this.

EAVCA: Fintrek explores Fintech opportunities in East Africa

This week, the East Africa Venture Capital Association (EAVCA) with Intellecap Advisory Services released the Fintrek – which explores fintech opportunities in East Africa, new frontiers in fintech (defined as firms using technology to deliver financial products/services or capabilities to customers or others firms) and fintech investments in East Africa.

Asia Pacific and Africa have been harbingers of mobile payments and that is transitioning into fintech now. The Fintrek report notes three underlying factors driving fintech uptake as:

  • (i) the use of alternative data to generate credit takings of the unbanked (and deliver services to them cheaply e.g no need for bank branches),
  • (ii) peer to peer networks (decentralized collaboration, payments across borders, unregulated) and
  • (iii) the emergence of nontraditional players (telcos, wallets like Google Pay & Apple Pay, e-retailers like Amazon)

smartphones offer fintech opportunities.

Regionally, Kenya is seen as a leader in the region owing to its levels of deposit penetration, deep financial sector penetration, and smartphone ownership (at 44% compared to less than 10% for Tanzania Uganda Rwanda and Ethiopia). Kenya is where most fintechs are setting up, and Kenya-based fintechs have raised $204 million between 2000 and 2017 which is 98% of the funding to the region.

Funding: In terms of funding, fintechs are still in early stages as seen in the small deal sizes: seed funding provided 47 deals (averaging $447,000) and 60% of all funding was to impact areas renewable energy/off grid lighting and health care (microinsurance). Five companies M-KOPA, Off-Grid Electric, SunFunder, Angaza, Azuri) have raised $345 million (through debt and equity) accounting for 55% of the funding between 2010 and 2017. Another finding was that while 53% of all funding between 2010 and 2017 was from venture capital funds, their average deal size  ($6 million – e.g. from Apis, Madison Dearborn)  is lower than those of corporates ($15 million – e.g. from Stanbic, Commercial Bank of Africa) and foundations ($10 million – e.g. from Calvert, Emerson, Omidyar Network) deals.

Fintechs needs a balance of debt and equity investments to grow, but they are struggling to get debt financing (mainly bank loans). Fintechs in East Africa had debt-equity ratios of 1:1 compared to 3:1 globally, indicating they have capacity to absorb more debt but are not doing it. The EAVCA report cites one of the funding challenges as investors want proof of traction while fintechs need working capital to demonstrate proof of concept, lack of funder knowledge about local markets, East Africa fintechs don’t look like what foreign investors expect, currency fluctuations make it had to raise debt and there is a lack of fundraising skill among local fintechs who can’t afford the teams that will enable them to raise money.

The Fintrek report identified 11 fintech opportunities models and 47 sub-models and identified 4 sub-models that have flourished in East Africa:

Payments and Savings: digital wallets (M-Pesa, Alipay, Tigo pesa – which pays 7-9% interest and now attract high-end users), payment intermediaries (Cellulant, Direct Pay, Jambopay) and digital currencies (Bitpesa, Coinbase, Belfrics – a crypto-currency platform).

Lending: direct lending (Branch, Tala – with 1.8M customers in Kenya, Kreditech, Umati capital), P2P lending (Lendable, Pezesha – has 6,000 borrowers & 200 lenders), and lending aggregators (lakompare). Also, there is telco-based nano lending (M-Shwari, KCB-M-Pesa, Equitel – which issued $57 billion worth of loans – and telco-bank lenders in Kenya account for over 76% of total loan accounts, but only 4% of the loan values)

Financial Management: Insuretech (Bimaspace, BimaAfya, Microensure), Investech (Abacus, Xeno) and personal finance management – (Chamasoft, Caytree).

FS Enablers: (Jumo – credit underwriting for 5 million customers and 20 million loans), Arifu, FirstAccess, NetGuardian – fraud identifier), FarmDrive, Sasa solutions, Lendddo).

Some recent fintech deals in East Africa include Farmdrive (from the Safaricom Spark Fund), Pezesha (DFS lab), Pula (DFS lab, CGAP), M-Kopa ($80M – Stanbic, CDC, FMO, Norfund), Tala ($30M – IVP), Jumo ($24M – Finnfund), Mobisol ($12M – FinnFund), Angaza ($10.5M – Emerson), Flutterwave ($10M – Greycroft), Netguardian ($8.5M – Freemont), Trine ($8M – Gullspang), Lendable ($6M – Kawisafi, Omidyar, Fenway), Direct Pay ($5M – Apis), Azuri ($5M – Standard Chartered), Bitpesa ($4.25M – Greycroft), Branch ($2M – from high-networth Kenyans and funds – arranged by Nabo Capital)

Production of the Fintrek report was supported by Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa and Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO).

See more of the EAVCA Fintrek report and other fintech opportunities at the 5th Sankalp Africa Summit on March 1-2, 2018 in Nairobi and see their private equity snapshot report.

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Barclays Africa Macro Economic Report

Africa is poised for third wave of growth that could return it to the Africa rising heights that preceded the global financial crisis. These are some of the highlights from a report released by Barclays Africa in Nairobi on their macro economic outlook for 2017-2018.

Barclays Africa Chief Economist Jeff Gable said that global growth was 3.7% and is at its strongest in 5 years with the growth synchronised in all regions – US, Europe (strongest in a decade), Asia (recovering from 2017), and Latin America (coming out of recession). Global concerns include the politics of rage and nationalism waves, US political uncertainty (with President Trump),  China’s economic adjustments and fluctuations in commodity demand.

Africa has shown itself to be resilient and is receiving foreign direct investments (FDI) flows at levels not seen in a decade. South Africa gets the top share of FDI (followed by Morocco, Egypt,  Nigeria, Kenya), with most deals coming from the USA – 91 investments (followed by France, China, UK, Dubai) but with the largest source of funding, by far, from China ($36 billion).

Gable sees African countries as better able to address macro economic conditions this time around, such as through making infrastructure pay off by focusing on smaller affordable achievable projects (such as Uganda oil and Tanzania gas), diversifying commodity-driven economies, and managing foreign exchange and debt with the lessons learnt from the earlier dip. He expects that a majority of African countries will continue to grow at a faster pace than in recent years and that average growth will be 4% across the continent.

Some risk concerns are that not many African countries can afford to pay for what they are spending and they are exposed to continued outside borrowing at a time that Sub-Saharan Africa credit ratings are declining and there are discussions about uncertain macro economic policies from Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania South Africa, and Zambia as well as other discussions on political strains in Ethiopia, Kenya Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  Another concern is that climate change will disproportionately affect Africa. 

Earlier in the day, Barclays Bank of Kenya Managing Director, Jeremy Awori cautioned on the year-old interest rate cap law in Kenya that had constrained private sector growth, and bank earnings He said banking industry earnings had shrunk 8% as at the third quartet of 2017,  compared to average growth of 15% in previous years and that private sector credit may have shrunk during the year.

Barclays Africa Macro Economic Report launch.

Other highlights of the Macro Economic Report:

  • Kenya’s credit rating has been stable since 2010, but Moody’s are now reviewing it for downgrade (due to to large deficits, high borrowing costs, and policy uncertainty). What concerns Moody’s is not Kenya’s debt size, but its replacement of long-term concessionary debt with short-term commercial debt.
  • Barclays Africa forward exchange rate forecast for the Kenya shilling to the US dollar is 106 at the end of 2018, 108.5 in 2019, and 110.8 in 2020.
  • Interest rate caps have been tried in many countries besides Kenya. The intent is the same, but Kenya’s Central Bank won’t be able to do anything about interest rate caps until next year.
  • For Kenya, tourism and agriculture (after the drought) are moving up, but manufacturing is lagging, and the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) showed dramatic improvement in December 2017 after plunging to lows in October 2017 during the election season.

The annual Macro economic report was produced by the Barclays Africa research desk. It will be followed by another release by Barclays – of their Africa Financial Markets Index which is a survey of 17 African stock markets.