2014 Oxford Africa Conference 23-24 May 2014


Tessa Wilson

The Spring bank holiday weekend meant a trip to Oxford to staff the 2014 Oxford Africa Conference. The 2-day event titled African Transformations was organised by Oxford’s two leading student-run Africa organisations: the Oxford Africa Society and the Oxford Business Network for Africa.

There was lots of interesting, direct and honest content and working with Gong’s financial services clients meant my ears pricked up for the ‘Investments in Actions: Private Equity Cases’ session with a discussion between members of CDC and The Abraaj Group, moderated by Private Equity Africa, Managing Editor, Gail Mwamba

There was a strong focus on the progress of African PE over the last decade, with discussion bouncing between the mass of opportunity and the overestimated risks. Yet the panel members were clear that one of the key constraints within African PE is finding superior talent, with David Easton, CDC, citing an important decision-making factor in his firm’s latest investment in the DRC as being its “good management”.

Talent, both at GP and portfolio company level, can be a major limiting factor for PE in Africa. Often not all the skills needed –  financial acumen, management experience, African background and operational track record – can be found in one individual.

With such a positive view on other, more ‘obvious’ risks, both political and economic, it is the difficulty in pinning down elusive talent which is often underestimated.