Africa Finance Forum Blog
Local Capital in African Private Equity: An Interview with Sev Vettivetpillai, Partner, The Abraaj Group13.10.2014,
You have been investing in Africa for two decades and pride yourself on being local as opposed to GPs who manage their funds out of London or New York. How much local capital financing have you mobilised for your African funds to date?
Over the years, we have raised about US$150 million from local institutional investors, representing a mix of banks, pension funds, social security funds and corporates. We raised some local capital in the 1990s with the CDC Group plc, and, in the last ten years, we have secured commitments from the likes of the National Pension Fund of Mauritius, South Suez, which has several of the local pension funds in southern Africa in their investor base, and Nigerian banks, which came into our funds under the Central Bank initiative.
How significant is the unlocking of huge amounts of local capital across Africa to your strategy, particularly with your funds going forward?
Local capital is an important part of the overall story in Africa. If Africans and African institutions are not investing in their own markets, why should somebody from outside the region think there is an opportunity here? To give credibility to the story they must invest, otherwise the story doesn't hold together.
The markets in Africa are all at different stages of development in terms of regulation and knowledge about this asset class. For example, in Nigeria, the regulatory framework has changed considerably and pension funds are increasingly able to invest in different asset classes. South Africa and Botswana may be a bit ahead of the game; however, Botswana's internal markets lack depth, so the investment strategy is oriented more externally. Then you have the South African pension funds, which have a lot of capital and are now starting to look beyond South Africa. As you can imagine, South Africa combined with the rest of Africa is a great story. So for them, understanding the challenges and the characteristics of investing outside of South Africa is their learning curve.
Limited partners in these markets face different issues, but I can see them all converging to form a very big investor group in the next five years. They are starting from virtually zero in terms of exposure to private equity, so allocations are going to go up from 0-5 per cent to maybe 10 per cent or 15 per cent of their portfolio. On the other hand, pension fund assets under management are increasing at exponential rates because their markets are growing, and more people are coming into the workforce. The importance of African pension funds as a source of capital is not to be underestimated.
What are some of the key challenges in raising local capital in Africa?
Getting the pension fund managers to understand how to build their private equity portfolios is the biggest challenge. I was at the Private Equity Master Class for Pension Funds at the African Venture Capital Association Annual Conference in Cape Town in 2013, which was organised in conjunction with the International Limited Partners Association. There were about 30 pension fund analysts in the room and the question was asked: how many have a private equity programme already? Only one put a hand up. How many have started to invest? Three more hands went up. How many are yet to start? The balance of the hands went up. So imagine the J-curve effect of investing in a private equity programme - these funds are going to have to commit capital based on their own risk/reward profile, and there's going to be a net cash outflow for a period of time until the cash flow starts to mature. That learning curve is going to be a challenge for many of them.
African pension funds often have concerns around liquidity, transparency and lack of benchmarks when it comes to private equity. How do you respond to them?
Pension funds should be looking at fund managers that have raised their third fund or beyond, because a first-time fund manager is a high-risk strategy. For pension funds, the loss of capital is a much bigger issue than the need for liquidity in the short term, relatively speaking. Each private equity fund is illiquid; you are tied in for 8-10 years. But the returns and the cash multiples should compensate for that illiquidity. If they don't, you are choosing the wrong private equity fund managers. One way to manage illiquidity is to have a co-investment program, and invest alongside the GP in larger deals. This gives you the ability to adjust the cost and liquidity because you're not tied up for ten years; you can sell your stake and get cash back.
You need to invest in GPs that provide you with the level of transparency that you need. If they don't, then you shouldn't invest with them. Look at the reports that they give on their fund, and understand how much of that information is transparent and can give you visibility of the underlying portfolio. This should be a key part of the due diligence process.
On lack of benchmarks, the first AVCA/Cambridge Associates benchmark study has been presented, and while it does not yet cover all the private equity funds in the region, what we saw was that performance is in line with Asia and Latin America. African funds are not doing any worse. The average returns, over the last ten years, of the industry are 10-12 per cent. As more information becomes available, this benchmark point will be further addressed. In addition, data from RisCura in South Africa show that the growth in the public equities market is not as strong as it is in the private markets. Pension funds have to get into this asset class or they will lose out on this significant growth.
What advice would you offer pension funds about risk and risk mitigation?
It is important to be aware of all risks - from financial to reputational. Please remember that the higher your returns, the more risk one assumes, and risk does change. Look to get back your capital and protect your downside on each investment. Look at the structures and the terms. Make sure they are applicable to you based on your risk/return profile. Don't partner with the wrong people; test the intent of your sponsors through negotiations to ensure that they are aligned with you and share the same values. And don't follow a herd mentality because LPs have done so in the past and burnt themselves badly.
Markets by their very nature tend to be volatile. We can expect one, maybe two, cycles minimum in a 7-10 year period. So building a portfolio to weather those cycles is key to ensuring that this volatility does not significantly affect your pension fund. I would encourage every fund manager to look at diversifying by country and sector, and to also look at splitting invested capital to receive returns in the form of income contractually built into the structure and capital gains. This allows you to de-risk your investment as quickly as possible, because you are not waiting for a single liquidity event to get your original invested capital back. It also helps deal with exchange risk because of currency devaluation in these markets.
How well aligned is private equity with the long-term obligations of African pension funds?
The average pension contributor in Africa today is very young, so pension fund liabilities are going to increase further down the road. The pension funds, therefore, have to invest in assets that will build long-term value, like private equity. At the same time, GPs need to understand the pension funds' level of experience and not take advantage of them. For instance, I know of managers in other markets that have gotten away with deal-by-deal carry as opposed to a full fund pay-out carry, because the pension funds were not aware of the consequences of this misalignment. Of course, this may be to the managers' advantage initially, but it will eventually be a disadvantage to everybody.
Do you think that GPs are doing enough to encourage pension funds to look at private equity, or can they do more?
GPs can and need to invest more in educating local pension funds. We at Abraaj are prepared to do so - we travel to every pension fund event to which we are invited and provide any information that we can. These investors may not commit immediately, or even invest in an Abraaj fund, but that's fine. This is bigger than that - it's about increasing the pool of capital available to the whole industry. If we as managers do not get on board now, in five years it will be a much harder job.
This interview is an extract from the newly released publication "Pension Funds and Private Equity: Unlocking Africa's Potential", a joint-publication by the Commonwealth, MFW4A, and EMPEA with the support of The Abraaj Group.
Sev Vettivetpillai is a Partner at The Abraaj Group and a member of its executive and investment committees, with over 20 years of direct private equity investing experience. Mr Vettivetpillai previously held the positions of Chief Executive Officer of Aureos Advisers Ltd. and Chief Investment Officer for the Aureos Group. Prior to joining Aureos, Mr. Vettivetpillai was a senior investment executive at CDC Group plc. His other appointments were at Vanik Incorporation (Sri Lanka) as a Portfolio Manager and Mott Macdonald Group (United Kingdom) as an Engineer.
Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have increased steadily in recent decades and are estimated to have reached about $32 billion in 2013. Though studies have shown that remittances can affect aggregate financial development in SSA - as measured by the share of deposits or M2 to GDP (Gupta et al. 2009), to my knowledge there is no evidence for this region on the impact of remittances on household financial inclusion defined as the use of financial services. This question is important because there is growing evidence that financial inclusion can have significant beneficial effects for households and individuals. In particular, the literature has found that providing individuals access to savings instruments increases savings, female empowerment, productive investment, and consumption. Furthermore, the topic of financial inclusion has gained importance among international bodies. In May 2013, the UN High-Level Panel presented the recommendations for post-2015 UN Development Goals, which included universal access to financial services as a critical enabler for job creation and equitable growth. In September 2013, the G20 reaffirmed its commitment to financial inclusion as part of its development agenda.
In a recent paper, my co-author, Gemechu Ayana Aga and I explore the link between international remittances and one aspect of financial inclusion in SSA: households' use of bank accounts . This issue is particularly important for SSA, given that on average only 24 percent of the population has an account with a formal financial institution. In contrast, 55 percent of adults in East Asia, 35 percent in Eastern Europe, 39 percent in Latin America, and 33 percent in South Asia have accounts.
Remittances may affect households' use of bank accounts in at least two ways. First, remittances might increase the demand for savings instruments. The fixed costs of sending remittances make the flows lumpy, potentially providing households with excess cash for some period of time. This might increase their demands for deposit accounts, since financial institutions offer households a safe place to store this temporary excess cash. Second, remittances recipients' exposure to banks, for example, when banks act as remittances paying agents, may familiarize them with the services offered by banks and increase their demand for bank accounts. Therefore, so long as lack of awareness is the main reason for households' financial exclusion, remittances may increase households' use of bank accounts.
Using World Bank survey data including about 10,000 households in five countries -- Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda - we find that receiving international remittances increases the probability that the household opens a bank account in all the countries in our study. This result is robust to controlling for the potential endogeneity of remittances, using as instruments indicators of the migrants' economic conditions in the destination countries.
The size of the impact varies across countries (see Figure 1). In Kenya and Nigeria, receiving international remittances increases the probability of a household having a bank account by about 10 percentage points. The size of the coefficient is larger for Uganda, where receiving international remittances increases the probability of having a bank account by about 15 percentage points. The size of the coefficient is smaller for Senegal and Burkina Faso, where receiving international remittances increases the likelihood of having a bank account by about 5 and 6 percentage points, respectively.
Figure 1: The impact of remittances on the likelihood that households own a bank account
Want to know more about the remittances of migrants from the perspective of a local user? Read this very interesting article about a taxi driver from the Togolese diaspora.
Maria Soledad Martinez Peria is the Research Manager of the Finance and Private Sector Development team of the Development Economics Research Group at The World Bank. Prior to joining The World Bank, Sole worked at the Brooking Institution, the Central Bank of Argentina, the Federal Reserve Board and the International Monetary Fund.
 Ayana Aga, Gemechu and Maria Soledad Martinez Peria, 2014. "International Remittances and Financial Inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa." World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 6991. econ.worldbank.org/external/default/main
Over the past decade Africa has experienced a 5% growth across the continent. This surprising and spectacular growth attracts investors from around the world. They are both forced to change their perception about what contains profound upheaval, and seduced by what is now considered as the emerging new frontier. Among the ten countries in the world where economic growth was the fastest between 2000 and 2010, five were located in sub-Saharan Africa: Equatorial Guinea (12.3% per year), Angola (9.3% per year), Chad (8.8% per year), Nigeria (7.4% per year) and Ethiopia (6.9% per year).
But this growth remains fragile, uneven and carries huge challenges: how to ensure that it benefits to the greatest number of people and allow millions to get out of the poverty trap?
In 2050, Africa will not only account for 4% of the global economy, it will also make up 23% of the world's population. This new world pole will be facing major issues such as the employment of a young and dynamic population that will be increasingly numerous in the labour markets. In this context, African small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are best positioned to create jobs and local added value, as well as develop the local economic fabric. They stand for essential drivers for social and political stability by spreading the wealth created and structuring local economies.
Nevertheless, SMEs appear as missing links in most African economies. They desperately need to find ways to meet their needs for growth despite a latent lack of access to finance. Too small and too costly to manage for large banking institutions, they are also too large to meet the investment criteria of microfinance institutions. They often are in a deadlock and do not fully benefit from the growth of the continent.
In this context, what solution one could bring to these key actors for responsible and sustainable growth in Africa in order to enable them start their business or scale up?
The solution lies in the emergence of new financing capacities that will offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to strengthen their capital stock under conditions compatible with certain constraints in terms of management fees, transaction costs, etc. It consists of developing a new industry of capital investment, 100% African, which can rely on a network of local investment funds, promoted by African investors and managed by locally recruited teams. This new device will revolutionize the access to finance for small African entrepreneurs through new sustainable funding solution.
But this capital will not be sufficient for African entrepreneurs to reach their growth potential and maximize their economic, social and environmental impacts. It should be complemented by strategic guidance for establishing solid fundamentals and ensuring sustainable development in due respect of all stakeholders. Finally, technical assistance missions will be essential to build and strengthen the financing capacities, through the transfer of know-hows, methodologies and the development of local skills.
The creation of this network of African investment funds will draw lessons from successes and failures of microfinance and will bring to private equity the same kind of revolution as the one microfinance has brought to the debt. It will require a real education for not only existing African finance players: banks, development agencies, private institutions, so that everyone contributes to the success of this new funding; but also with entrepreneurs as private equity is sometimes looked at with distrust and its benefits are not fully appreciated today!
Jean-Michel Severino is Chairman of the private finance company Investisseur & Partenaire pour le Développement (I&P). He is the former Director of France's international development agency, AFD. Jean-Michel Severino is General Inspector of Finances at the French Finance Ministry and served as Director in charge of international development at the French Ministry of Cooperation. He has also worked at the World Bank, first as Director for Central Europe and then as Vice President for Asia.
A resounding thank you to everyone who joined us in Dakar, Senegal, last month for our Partnership Forum. I hope you found the event as engaging and stimulating as we did. One of the lessons for the Secretariat that emerged from the Forum discussions is the need to deepen our engagement with key stakeholders in support of financial sector development in Africa. This means that we will be doing things differently, rather than doing different things. Our emerging work programme with pension funds is an example of this.
Pension funds play a critical role in finance through the mobilisation and allocation of stable long-term savings to support investment. Recent reforms in many African countries have created private pension systems, which are rapidly accumulating assets under management (AUM). The Nigerian pension industry, for example, grew from US$7 billion in December 2008 to US$25 billion in December 2013. Similarly, Ghana's pension industry is expected to expand by up to 400 per cent in the four years from 2014 to 2018. Pension assets now equate to some 80 per cent of GDP in Namibia  and 40 per cent in Botswana. How can Africa mobilise these domestic resources to support private sector development, as well as the investment in infrastructure and social services that need to drive continued growth and transformation? How can these long-term savings support the development of capital markets on the continent?
In the coming days, we will be releasing a joint publication, "Pension Funds and Private Equity: Unlocking Africa's Potential" with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA). The report provides information that is crucial to a better understanding and appreciation of the pensions industry in Africa. In addition to outlining the latest data and regulatory profiles for 10 African countries, the report estimates how much capital could be available to support private equity in these countries as well as how much has already been mobilised to date. We chose to focus on private equity in particular because in the context of underdeveloped capital markets and a lack of long-term financing, private equity is an attractive option for African companies in search of capital and can be a catalyst for job creation and economic growth.
The report profiles the pension industries of Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, in addition to providing expert insights from practitioners in the industry. The aim of this comparative analysis is to advance the dialogue among African pension fund managers, pensioners, regulators and other industry stakeholders about private equity and further the exchange of best practices across the region and with other emerging and developed markets. Whilst this publication focuses on private equity, the lessons learned are applicable to other sectors such as infrastructure and housing, as well as how these long term savings can be used to support the development of capital markets.
In that vein, and based on the publication, we are engaging with pension fund managers, through our recently launched Africa Pension Funds Network (APFN), to explore how the various barriers to unlocking domestic capital can be addressed. APFN was inaugurated during the Partnership Forum in Dakar in June, and membership currently includes industry associations and pension fund managers from Botswana, East Africa (covering Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia), Namibia, Nigeria, and South Africa, with more countries expected to join in the coming months. The network will provide a platform for exchange of knowledge and expertise amongst industry participants across the continent. The network will also facilitate cross-country collaboration through co-investments, peer-to-peer learning and provide a forum for engagement with other financial sector stakeholders at the pan-African level. We are already in discussions with the International Organisation of Pension Supervisors (IOPS) about the possibility of organising a meeting between African Pension Supervisors and APFN at the IOPS Global Forum in Namibia in October.
We will be building on these foundations over the summer using new tools such as our Online Collaborative Platform, an interactive and secured social networking platform aimed at supporting and catalysing MFW4A networks and working groups, the African Partners Directory, a database repository of key stakeholders active in Africa's financial sectors, and the more traditional tools like the bi-weekly newsletter.
To conclude, I would like to extend special thanks to all our partners for the constructive and stimulating collaboration that is driving us towards our common goal of promoting Africa's financial sectors. I would also like to thank the Secretariat team for their sterling efforts and achievements so far.
To all our readers, sincere and best wishes for an enjoyable and restful summer/winter break.
MFW4A Partnership Coordinator
 National Pension Commission Nigeria (PenCom).
 According to National Pensions Regulatory Authority officials, pension industry assets could grow from ¢1.06 billion to ¢5.5 billion in this period.
 Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority Annual Report, 2013.
 Based on Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFRIA) and World Bank figures.
When Alan Greenspan, the then Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, heard of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, his immediate reaction to the event's potential effects on the financial system was the impact it could have on the payment systems in America, and the knock on affects this would have on the rest of the world. He stated, "We'd always thought that if you wanted to cripple the US economy, you'd take out the payment systems. Banks would be forced to fall back on inefficient physical transfers of money. Businesses would resort to barter and IOUs; the level of economic activity across the country could drop like a rock."
Payment systems form an integral part in any society; by facilitating the payment of goods and services, payment systems' increase the pace of economic expansion, improve the functioning of regional integrated financial markets and contribute to the pursuit of sound macroeconomic policies. Thus, African governments have, like the rest of the world, begun to recognise the sheer importance of sound payment systems and the benefits that could be accrued with their successful integration. Integration of African payment systems has lagged that of the rest of the world partly due to the culture of cash use and technological deficiencies. The original European regional Real-Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), the Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross settlement Express Transfer (TARGET), started operations in January 1999, more than 15 years ago. In order to be a real force in the expanding global economy, consumers, small and medium-sized enterprises and large corporations alike, must be able to make payments efficiently and safely. Thus, African governments need to improve their payment systems' capabilities to enhance domestic, regional and international trade.
The challenge posed by technical and technological deficiencies in many African nations is one of the greatest obstacles to full integration of payment systems in Africa. This challenge creates obstacles when attempting to link regional payment systems at vastly different stages of development across the continent. The East African Payment System (EAPS), a regional payment system linking the five member countries of the East African Community (EAC) namely; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, has adopted a phased integration process due to the differing level of advancement with regards to the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) systems in each country. Currently, Burundi and Rwanda are yet to join EAPS. The COMESA Regional Payment and Settlement System (REPSS), has also adopted a phased integration approach, with only 5 of its 19 member states currently linked to the system. The regional payment system to cater for South Africa; the Southern African Development Community Integrated Regional Settlement System (SIRESS), has so far linked the SADC Common Monetary Area (CMA), namely, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland, to SIRESS (July 2013), with the aim of the rest of the SADC, non-CMA member countries to join in due time.
It is evident that a large number of regional payment systems in Africa have had to adopt a two-stage, or more, implementation programme to ensure integration can take place sooner rather than later. Furthermore, many banks in Africa do not have adequate infrastructure to cater to growing technology requirements. In Uganda, only three (3) out of twenty six (26) commercial banks use Straight Through Processing (STP) technology for processing RTGS transactions, often preventing very quick settlement of transactions due to manual intervention in the processing of transactions.
To combat these challenges, there is a need to put in place harmonised technological standards, regulations and policies that ensure adequate supporting pillars for the payment and settlement systems to be integrated throughout the region and in order to protect payment flows. Additionally, assistance should be provided so that banks are better placed and incentivised to upgrade their systems and keep abreast of the improvements being made within the payment systems sector. There is also need for a drive for greater private sector involvement in payment systems, once the basics have been implemented, such as the implementation of an RTGS system in countries where they do not exist. Private sector involvement will encourage competition and innovations and thus induce competitively priced services, efficiency and hopefully greater accessibility. Moreover regulation that not only ensures adequate oversight of payment systems and their associated instruments, but also promotes an enabling environment for positive change, innovation and safe and efficient practices, must be implemented.
There are a number of fully integrated regional payment systems in Africa that demonstrate that the effective implementation can be achieved. In the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), payment system reform saw the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) implement a 3-way plan to establish an RTGS system, an automated multilateral clearing system and the development of regional inter-bank card based system, in its member states where these features were lagging. The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (EMCCA) member states are fully integrated in terms of monetary policy, laws and trade rules, partly due to their use of the same currency, the CFA Franc. In 2003, BEAC, the regions Central Bank, launched a reform project for their payment and settlement systems'. EMCCA now has two regional payment systems; SYGMA, operational in all member states since November 2007, is EMCCA's high value RTGS system and the Central African Tele-clearing System (SYSTAC) is an automated deferred net settlement system for retail payments comprised of national clearing centres installed in each of the EMCCA member states.
In our forever-expanding and forever-advancing global society, Africa must ensure that it keeps abreast of all the advances and improvements being made within the payment systems arena to ensure it does not get left behind, and thus fully benefits from being truly connected to the rest of the world. As aforementioned, African nations understand the necessity of sound, interconnected payment systems and in May 2014, the Association of African Central Banks (AACB) committed to strengthening the process of integration of African payment systems by agreeing to a number of initiatives to facilitate the process of regional and eventual continental, integration. The technical staff from AACB member countries have proposed to work together by commissioning a continental body to accelerate integration by, for instance, establishing working groups that will, but are not limited to, ensuring all existing deficiencies in technology, technical capacity, legislative and regulatory frameworks are identified and addressed with strategic plans devised and eventually implemented. Strengthening the legal and regulatory environment will clarify the role of the regulator, the users and the operators of payment systems, improving confidence and thus increasing the use of non-cash payment systems. In addition, the successful implementation of the necessary components of a multilateral clearing mechanism and institutional framework for the development and interconnection of African payment systems will speed up the process of integration. By improving payment systems, barriers to trade are reduced whilst links and networks are strengthened and thus trade and exchange of capital, goods, services and labour across the region will be expanded, promoting economic activities and growth.
 Excerpt from, ' The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan,' www.ft.com/cms/s/2/4ff4c5f0-6c33-11dc-a0cf-0000779fd2ac.html
 'Ability to receive and process financial transactions from start to finish utilizing an electronic system and without intervention of any sort.' www.investorwords.com/8422/straight_through_processing.html
Charles Augustine Abuka is the Director Financial Stability Department at the Bank of Uganda. He has been involved in the implementation of Uganda's macroeconomic policies since 1998.
Belinda Baah is an Economist and Principal Banking Officer working in the Bank of Uganda's Financial Stability Department, in the Financial Market Infrastructure Oversight Division.
- Geva, B., 'Payment System Modernisation and Law Reform in Developing Nations: Lessons from Cambodia and Sri Lanka ', The Banking Law Journal, 2009. papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm
- 'Payment Systems and Intra African Trade', UNECA, September 2010. www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/publications/atpcpolicybriefs11.pdf
- 'EAPS Project Appraisal Report', AfDB, October 2012.· 'The Evolution of Payment Systems', the European Financial Review, February 2012.
- 'The Southern African Development Community Integrated Regional Settlement System (SIRESS): What? How? And Why?', Central Bank of Lesotho, Economic Review, July 2013.
- TARGET Europe: www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/other/targetfffen.pdf
- Wentworth, L., 'SADC Payment Integration System', European Centre for Development Policy Management, August 2013
- 'Electronic Payments in Africa', the Economist, September 2013.
- 'Wamz Payments System Development Project in the Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone: Progress Report', West African Monetary Institute, November 2013. wormholedev.net/qwamz/