When it started in 1994, AfricInvest was the first private equity fund manager in North Africa. Since then, it has grown from a firm only operating in Tunisia, to a leading pan-African investor managing a portfolio of $1.2 billion and 18 funds, spanning a range of regions and sectors.
We have been invested in AfricInvest since 2006, a time when they were making the transition to become a pan-African private equity investor. For this article, we sat down with Ziad Oueslati, a founding partner at AfricInvest, to look back on our long relationship and find out how it has evolved over the years.
The early stages
According to Ziad, he and his team were speaking to CDC for a number of years before we made our first investment in one of their funds 12 years ago. He says in the early stages, “CDC were not only focused in putting money in, they showed a keen interest in building a relationship and they helped in the development of our environmental and social standards—both at the GP level and with our investees.”
In the first few years, according to Ziad, a lot of our work with AfricInvest was focused on building environmental, social and corporate governance standards. For example, “CDC cared a lot about our organisation. We had some discussions about dealing with a conflict of interest among our funds and we put rules in place as a result of the points raised by CDC.”
Enabling AfricInvest to grow
More recently, our work with AfricInvest has focused on advising AfricInvest on articulating its future strategy and sharing it with other investors: “CDC helped us to bring together a group of our LPs [limited partners] in London to explain how we are evolving and where we see ourselves in five years. This was the first time we had used such forward-looking communication strategy, and since then we have made it a priority to provide this type visibility to all of our investors.”
We’re also working with Ziad and AfricInvest to help them attract capital from commercial investors. This has involved helping to ensure the right compliance procedures are in place and engaging with other investors. Ziad recalls, “In some discussions with prospective investors we’d say, ‘Please call CDC!’ as a reference. CDC representatives have been instrumental in providing feedback to potential LPs, explaining that we meet the expectations investors are looking for in terms of returns, corporate governance and impact.”
AfricInvest has developed a ‘platform’ strategy, which means it provides several different types of funds across a number of sectors capitalizing on its large, local and diversified team spread across seven African countries and hubs. Ziad says that our support has been instrumental in helping this approach become a success: “While some development finance institutions focus only on fostering new fund managers, CDC was among those DFIs who believed they should support a multi-strategy platform such as ours. This type of support is really helping private equity evolve in Africa.”