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Q1 2021 - (released May 2021)

SA's quarterly Private Equity & Venture Capital magazine

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Resilience, Resurgence and Results

by Kendall Evans

After a one-year hiatus due, as everything was in 2020, to the global pandemic, the Africa Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s (AVCA) annual conference (the 17th edition, no less) returned, albeit virtually.

 

AVCA structured the conference as an AVCA virtual week, commencing on 20 April 2021 and ending on 23 April 2021, with two days of conference followed by two days of masterclasses: the “Legal Agreements Masterclass” and the “Private Capital Funds Masterclass”.  The Conference was well attended by over 350 Global and African dignitaries, Limited Partners, General Partners, DFIs and advisers, including delegates from Bowmans’ offices across Africa. Indeed, Bowmans was represented by partners from Nairobi, Uganda, Mauritius, South Africa and its alliance firm in Nigeria, UUBO.

 

The Conference’s key themes were the “Three Rs” of Resilience, Resurgence and Results, which are particularly pertinent in a year where the globe (and Africa) continues its struggle to come to terms with the new normal of the COVID pandemic.

 

H.E. Nana Addo Akufo-Addo, the President of the Republic of Ghana, delivered the opening address, and his key themes, echoing and introducing those of the Conference, were the collaboration between the private and public sectors, and the resilience and recovery of the African economy. He aptly concluded that “Closer collaboration and cooperation between the public and private sector is required to achieve Africa’s resilience and resurgence”.

 

Thereafter, and throughout the two days, there were a number of different keynote presentations, panel discussions and break-outs focusing on the Three Rs and, in particular, on:

  • Africa’s revival post-COVID, including debating the role that private investors should play in accelerating the continent’s recovery and, indeed, pinpointing those areas that have been impacted by the pandemic and companies that will challenge traditional players in the future;

  • Evolving themes and emerging opportunities in African Private Equity, including examining emerging economies with rising opportunities to challenge the well-established jurisdictions, such as Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and Morocco;

  • Regulatory and policy changes affecting private investment on the continent; and

  • Various thematic streams, including healthcare; ESG impact investing; infrastructure; and agriculture, to name a few.

 

Additionally, all delegates were given the opportunity to break-out into different “rooms” to discuss topics, and network virtually – still a difficult undertaking, and one that takes some getting used to, but useful nonetheless.

 

The two days of Masterclasses were not quite as widely attended as the Conference, although from a virtual perspective, they worked extremely well as a format. The Private Capital Funds Masterclasses provided a detailed overview of investing and managing private equity and venture capital funds in emerging markets, and the Legal Agreements Funds Masterclasses were to provide a training programme focused on providing a better understanding of African private equity legal agreements, common pitfalls of different contractual terms, and key commercial issues.

 

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James Westgate (Sandton, South Africa), Vruti Shah (Nairobi, Kenya), Dominic Indokhomi (Nairobi, Kenya) and Kendall Evans (Nairobi, Kenya), partners in Bowmans’ Sandton and Nairobi offices, gave one of the Legal Agreements Masterclasses in respect of “Restructuring Distressed Portfolio Companies”. The key takeaways being to ensure collaboration between all stakeholders in such portfolio companies, and speed and decisiveness of action when a portfolio company is in distress.

 

The Conference ultimately ended on a positive note. The continued challenges facing investors in Africa and its myriad different jurisdictions, cultures and markets were identified and discussed in detail. However, the continued resilience of the continent’s economy was a key feature, together with the entrepreneurship of many of its people.

 

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Olugbenga Agboola, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Flutterwave, noted that the fact that multiple countries make up Africa “presents an opportunity to find solutions, deliver amazing companies and drive investments”, and Maurizio Caio, Founder and Managing Partner of TLcom Capital, called it as he saw it when he said, “Africa is world-class; the quality of entrepreneurship is wonderful and it’s as good as any other market in the world”. These descriptions of Africa as an investment market are true and, indeed, cannot be bettered. That was a wrap until 2022, where the wish must be for more of the same from Africa and, from AVCA’s perspective, that all delegates at next year’s conference can meet in person.

 

Evans is a Partner | Bowmans Kenya office.

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