Private-equity (PE) activity in Africa has increased significantly in the last 30 years
From a dozen or so active general partners (GPs) in the region in 1990, there are currently at least 140 GPs active in Africa. Between 2010 and 2016, GPs invested around US$25.6bn across sectors that ranged from consumer goods to water and sanitation.
GPs’ approach to investment in Africa is, in several ways, distinct from how the asset class functions in other parts of the world. For instance, PE fund raising and deal execution have a longer lead time in Africa than PE funds focused on other regions; the deal sizes are usually smaller; the average holding periods sometimes extend over eight years; and the exit options are weighted towards trade sales. Trade sales are associated with corporate buyers purchasing assets in their core line of business. PE, therefore, plays an important role in facilitating the presence and strategic expansion of corporates in the region.
Moreover, PE investment in Africa tends to focus on growth capital, helping investees to improve governance, and strategy, expand their footprint and (at times) contribute positively to the region’s broader commercial ecosystem, for example by deepening capital markets and expanding supply chains. The focus on growth capital is the opposite of the financial engineering accusations often directed at GP activities in other regions. Rather than buying a business, significantly increasing its debt levels, aggressively reducing costs and exiting after a short holding period, the GP approach in Africa centres on holding and scaling businesses with limited, if any, debt capital included in deal structures.
GPs operating in Africa have surpassed benchmark levels of return: between 2007 and 2015, they generated an average return well over 150% the MSCI Emerging Market Index. This notwithstanding, PE has low penetration relative to performance in other regions. Reforms have been enacted in some countries in the region in order to encourage Africa-based institutional investors to allocate capital to the asset class.
However, more remains to be done to harness fully PE’s potential to contribute to Africa’s socioeconomic development. Each investment counts: every 0.01% in concluded PE transactions as a percentage of African GDP (US$2.1trn) translates to over US$200m of much needed incremental annual investment in the region.
The impact of private equity
Capital to grow: PE plays a catalytic role in Africa. The general shallowness of African capital markets and the high cost of debt finance mean that PE plays an important role in helping to unlock and grow the potential of individual companies and ecosystems. Unlike in other regions, where transactions may be driven by a financial engineering objective, the asset class is primarily applied to fund enterprise growth in Africa.
GPs generally approach transactions by assessing the potential to expand a targeted portfolio company’s market reach and/or combine it with a complementary business or service offering. “We play at the larger end of the PE spectrum. Investments start at US$50m and may go up to US$250m,” says David Cooke, partner at Actis, a GP that invests in emerging markets. “Baked” deals—those that are acquired at scale and run efficiently—are not as common in the region.
“We find very few baked transactions. We may take a successful national business and expand it regionally; everything we do is around growth,” adds Mr Cooke. Debt, when used in deal structures, is generally sparingly and judiciously applied. “We typically use a lot of equity, no more than one third debt,” says Nhlanganiso Mkwanazi, director at Medu Capital, a Johannesburg-based firm. “In the mid-market space, we want to generate investment returns by growing the businesses. The businesses need to have strong balance sheets, not onerous structuring, to enable them to grow effectively,” adds Mr Mkwanazi.
Geographic expansion and job creation
Various indicators point to the value of GPs’ involvement with their portfolio companies. For example, between 2009 and 2015, Africa-based PE investee companies grew their employment “Private equity in Africa is primarily used to support growth, whereas, in the developed world, it may have more of a financial numbers by over 15%, according to The African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA). One of Actis’s South Africa-based investments, Food Lover’s Market, is adding an average of five new employees daily.
Fanisi Capital, a Kenya-based GP, has had success growing smaller enterprises into national and regional enterprises. “We do earlystage investments, sometimes with a single entrepreneur, and help to corporatise them,” says Ayisi Makatiani, managing partner at Fanisi Capital. He adds, “For example, we made an acquisition that had two pharmacies and helped to build it into a chain with 53 outlets.”
“While the typical size of our PE investments is between US$50m and US$100m, we will look at anything from US$30m to US$200m. In terms of size, we care less about where we start out, and more where we can end up. Our focus is on the capacity to grow and develop a company into a market-leading business of scale,” says Souleymane Ba, partner at Helios Investment Partners, a London-based GP that invests exclusively in Africa.
“We put investment and growth first, before anything else.” Bruce MacRobert, chairman, Consol Holdings Improving environmental social and governance (ESG) performance says ESG is a generic term used by investors to evaluate corporate behaviour. GPs, and the limited partners investing in their funds, prioritise investees meeting acceptable ESG standards. These standards include financial and non-financial indicators geared to measure how well a company is performing and give an indication of its long-term prospects. Energy efficiency, staff training and qualifications, green house gas emissions and litigation risks, as examples, form part of a host of ESG factors.
Often a GPs involvement in an investee results in a dramatic improvement in ESG performance. “All of our portfolio companies in some way are making life better for people and businesses in Africa,” says Dabney Tonelli, investor relations partner at Helios Investment Partners. “Through our investment activity we’re developing the next generation of business leadership potential, enhancing lives through access to information and technology, creating financial security, increasing financial inclusion, improving environmental care and quality and improving governance standards,” she adds.
Transactions: doing deals
The period 2010-16 for some GPs 2016 was their busiest year. “We do two to three deals a year, flowing from an annual pipeline of over 160 potential opportunities. In respect of transaction volumes, last year was our biggest year as a firm,” says Mr Ba. Out of 54 African countries, only five had a GDP that exceeded US$100bn in 2016, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit. Large PE transactions are, therefore, few and far between in the region.
Over the seven-year period, transactions greater than US$250m composed a little under half (US$12.5bn) of concluded deals. GPs biased towards larger deals generally do not conclude transactions that exceed US$250m. “The typical size of a deal is US$50m to US$100m,” says
Ngalaah Chuphi, executive director at Ethos, a In 2010-16, around US$25.6bn of PE transactions were concluded. The annual investment level averaged around US$3.7bn. However, this figure does not tell the entire story. For example, 2013 and 2014 stood out within the period: over US$12bn, or 48% of total value, was invested in those two years alone.
Three large telecommunications deals by IHS Towers, a company that builds and operates base stations, averaging around US$1.4bn each, and one US$630m deal by Helios Towers Africa, which also builds and operates base stations, accounted for around US$4.8bn of the total value of concluded deals.
Notwithstanding slower macroeconomic growth in the region, in 2016 the total amount invested by GPs was US$3.8bn or US$160m more than the average annual investment over the Larger deals dominate overall, but not in every year. Johannesburg-based GP. In fact, in the period 2011-16, only around 3% of PE-transaction volume involved deals valued at US$250m or more, according to Prequin, a firm that provides data on the PE industry. Deal mix: Regional focus
Over 1,000 PE deals were concluded between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2016, according to data from AVCA and Prequin. Transactions that involved investees that operated across a single sub-region composed the largest share of deal value over the seven-year period. The Southern Africa region accounted for around 30% of completed transactions. South Africa is the largest and most sophisticated single PE market in Africa, accounting for around 22% of concluded transactions by volume and 13% of concluded transactions by value between 2010 and 2016.
West Africa contributed one-quarter of the capital invested in Africa PE transactions over the period, while accounting for around 25% of total transactions. The East Africa region contributed 18% of PE transactions, but just 8% of total deal value. Between 2011 and 2016, there may have been as few as seven concluded deals in East Africa valued at US$50m or more; other East Africa-based deals concluded over the same period averaged around US$8.5m per transaction, according to Prequin.
The smaller average size of East African deals suited Fanisi Capital, a Nairobi-based GP focusing on transactions in the range of US$3m to US$5m. “Africa is big, and it is complicated; that leaves opportunities for regionally based GPs like us,” said Mr Makatiani. He adds, “The challenge has been that East Africa has become very popular.
Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.
During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.
The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.
According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.
This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.
During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.
Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.
The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.
The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.
The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.
The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.
Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.
Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.
The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.
With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.
The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.
The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.
The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.
The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.
This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.
Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.
In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.
The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.
Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.
Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.
The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.
The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.
The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.
Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.
The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.
Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.
It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.
One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .
This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.
Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.
To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.
Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.
The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.
“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.
Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.
Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.
Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.
Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.
During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.
“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.
Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.
“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.
However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.
“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.
Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic. To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.
Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.
A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.
International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.
The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.
“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.
“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”
Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.
De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.
The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.
This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.
In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.
Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.
The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.
The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.
Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized. In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.
In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.
Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.
De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.
Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.
The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.
While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.
Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.
When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.
“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.