Africa has the ideas but lacks the resources to fund them, says Swiss entrepreneur

Jean Claude Bastos de Morais is a Swiss entrepreneur and investor who has founded a number of businesses throughout his career and has a specific interest in Africa. He is the chairman of the advisory board of Quantum Global, an international asset management group that he founded in 2003, and is an advisor on African financial markets. In 2008 he founded Angola’s first investment bank, Banco Kwanza Invest, and in 2010 he formed the African Innovation Foundation which focuses on driving African-led development through fostering innovation.

Jean Claude Bastos de Morais

Jean Claude Bastos de Morais

How we made it in Africa asks Bastos de Morais to tell us about what his expectations are for Africa in 2013 and which industries on the continent he thinks investors should be looking into.

Briefly tell us what Quantum Global Group does in Africa.

Quantum Global Group offers a one-stop solution for emerging markets, with a focus on the African continent. We have a highly skilled team with a strong African experience, coming from various industry sectors and nationalities. Therefore we successfully provide African market-anchored insight for institutional clients including sovereign wealth funds and national banks.

Internationally, Quantum Global is a group of companies focused on corporate finance, asset and private wealth management, real estate project management and investment advisory. We create a bridge between wealth and appropriate investment opportunities for central banks and sovereign wealth funds, financial institutions, corporate investors and high-net worth individuals in emerging markets in Africa and around the world.

What importance do you think Africa holds in 2013?

Africa’s growth is set to accelerate over the long term, following a decade of strong performance despite socio-economic and political instability. As Europe and the US are struggling to restart their economies, the World Bank estimates Africa’s growth rate will exceed 5% in 2013 and banking penetration is growing around 15% each year. These are all indications that Africa is taking off economically.

My experience on the continent tells me that opening the door to private-equity investment on the continent has incredible potential to fuel African growth and global economic gains.

In your opinion, which African regions/countries and industries should international investors be looking at?

Sub-Saharan Africa has in recent years rebounded sharply, supported in part by the global recovery but mainly through developments on the domestic front: output estimated to have expanded by almost 5% on average year on year.

Across Africa there is considerable unrealised potential that can be maximised by international investors. From infrastructure and real estate to agricultural development and manufacturing, Africa presents considerable opportunities. Africa could become one of the world’s opportunity hubs.

You started the African Innovation Foundation. Why do you think it’s important to invest in innovation in Africa?

I am convinced that the best way to build Africa’s capacity is by investing in innovation and creating an environment that promotes entrepreneurship. The African Innovation Foundation was established exactly to do that – support innovation and sustainable development in Africa. Today, we support home-grown innovations but also facilitate technology transfer and promote the exchange of ideas and collaboration among researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers.

A key flagship programme of the foundation is the Innovation Prize for Africa, which is focused on delivering market-led solutions that will move the continent forward. My experience as an investor tells me that seed-funding good ideas can fuel progress – that is what the prize does. We find good ideas, provide them with financing, but also connect them with marketing experts, investors and others who can help them grow their business.

It is my dream and vision to boost the growth of small and medium-sized companies in Africa in the years to come and the Innovation Prize for Africa is an important vehicle to support that idea.

How do you think Africa can reach its full potential? What needs to happen?

My time on the African continent has taught me that there are no shortages of good ideas, but a lack of resources to fund them. I believe that the best way to build Africa’s capacity is to invest in local innovation and entrepreneurship. We need to open doors to venture investing across the continent in order to build African economies from within and reduce dependencies on aid.

Tell us about Banco Kwanza Invest and the investment trends have you noticed in Angola.

Banco Kwanza Invest is the first investment bank in Angola, operating since 2008, and focused on private equity, corporate finance, merger and acquisitions and other financial services.

We have observed the Angolan market closely over the last few years. Inflation was dramatically reduced and gross domestic product increased. At the same time commercial bank lending and government bond rates significantly decreased. All of this has a very strong effect on business and investments.

We believe that the Angolan market needs more venture investing in order to have a much better debt to equity ratio, to leverage their operations. The interesting areas which we see are agriculture, infrastructure, service industry, manufacturing and hospitality.