Introducing the East Africa Venture Capital Association, interview with Director Nonnie Wanjihia

The East Africa region continues to gain in prominence as a business and investment destination. In the effort to bridge the public and private sector, and in the interest to further reduce restrictive regulatory decisions that can limit much needed investment flows in the region, it is only fitting stakeholders in the region come together to form the new East Africa Venture Capital Association. We had a chance to connect with the new Director Nonnie Wanjihia to find out more.

Can you please highlight your previous experience and how this led you to the new positions as Director of the EAVCA?

“I graduated from the University of Bristol with a law degree but moved into communications immediately after. I left London 2 years and joined Africapractice, a strategic communications consultancy in Nairobi and worked with a number of private equity clients like Citadel Capital, Actis and Grofin and helped in the formation of the company’s Investor Relations practice area in East Africa. That experience brought me to ALN, Africa Legal Network, and following a short stint there, I was brought on board to launch East Africa Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (EAVCA) with the seven founding members earlier this year.”

How do you see the Venture Capital space in East Africa? What has been the change in the last two years?

“Across the region, competition for deals has increased with a number of financial investors and renewed interest from African and global trade buyers. EAVCA certainly expects this growth to continue as we see more and more funds being raised as investors continue to see the region as an attractive investment destination.”

In forming the association, what are the key challenges your members look to address as they work to strengthen the ecosystem and their own ability to operate?

“Fund managers operating in East Africa have identified training as a priority. There is limited training in the market with several investment managers going abroad at a significant cost to gain fundamental training. Furthermore, talent is cited as an ongoing challenge. EAVCA aims to emphasize skill building to improve the industry’s market strength in securing high value investment opportunities. The association will offer training with more localized content, targeting more junior team members.

EAVCA is seeking to bridge the knowledge gap between the public and private sector on the importance of the asset class and the impact the nascent industry can have on growing enterprises and the development of our economies and play a greater role in mobilizing local capital.”

What is the key objective of EAVCA? How do you look to collaborate with the other associations and where do you differentiate?

“We are aiming to be a transformative force in the development of the private equity industry in East Africa. We are looking at several ways to collaborate and partner with AVCA and SAVCA on the same and all our initiatives complement both those of AVCA and SAVCA.”

Who are the founding members and what is their vision for the network?

“EAVCA was founded in 2013 by Abraaj, Actis, Africinvest, Catalyst Principal Partners, Centum, Fanisi Capital and TBL Mirror Fund. EAVCA was established to represent the industry in East Africa and provide a “voice” for industry players to raise awareness and engage on regional policy matters.”

What are regional specific opportunities and challenges?

“EAVCA will address the policy issues surrounding the industry and educate regional and local regulators and policy makers on the importance of the asset class to growing businesses and economies in the region. One of the focus areas of EAVCA will be to mobilize local capital towards the asset class, which currently is dominated by foreign investors.”

How is the membership structured and where can VC4A members go to find more information and apply?

“We have three tiers of membership and criteria and application forms are available on our website:”

Do you have anything you would like to add or a final message for the VC4Africa community?

“We have two upcoming events in September both taking place in Nairobi, members do get priority and discounts as a benefit of membership so do keep an eye on our website and for details.”

The formalization of the EAVCA is another important step for the development of the East Africa ecosystem. As a community, VC4Africa is pleased to welcome the association as an important partner and we look forward to supporting its continued growth and development.