Due Diligence: Alta Semper identifies untapped formal retail potential in Nigeria and Ethiopia

Afsane Jetha

How we made it in Africa’s Due Diligence series asks top players in Africa’s private equity industry about how they are mastering the art and science of profitable dealmaking and fundraising. Doing the due diligence on those who do due diligence for a living.

This article is published in association with Africa Private Equity News, a one-stop source for industry-related information. Stay up to date by downloading the free Africa Private Equity News app: Android | iOS | Scan QR code from desktop


Alta Semper is a dedicated frontier-markets private equity firm investing in consumer and healthcare opportunities across African growth markets. Michael Avery sat down with the managing partner and CEO, Afsane Jetha, to learn more about the firm’s investment strategy.

What is it you look for in an investment?

We invest in market-leading companies in the healthcare and consumer sectors across twelve diversified African countries. Our investment philosophy is to create and preserve value by implementing material operational improvements across our portfolio companies. We invest in number one or two market share consumer and healthcare assets which aspire to expand geographically into neighbouring regions. We like to invest in buy-and-build platforms and have a strength in helping local families institutionalise their businesses.

What is the greatest investment lesson you’ve learnt?

The greatest lesson we have learnt is that governance can break or make an investment. Thus, we only invest majority stakes, which allow us strong governance rights, significant influence over governance structures and the ability to bring in new management when necessary. As most of our deal flow is proprietary and relationship-based, we spend a significant amount of time assessing management and creating a governance structure.

Identify an untapped opportunity for private equity investors in Africa.

Nigeria and Ethiopia are Africa’s most populous nations and have two of the lowest penetrations of formal retail in Africa. Formal retail only comprises 5-7% of the GDP in Nigeria, while Ethiopia has the least penetrated retail sector in Africa, presenting a massive retail potential.

What is the biggest misconception about your job?

The idea that there is no capital in Africa is a big misconception. Instead, the biggest challenge that companies face in Africa are the limited resources in terms of human capital and the dearth of experienced management teams.

Name the one deal you wish you invested in.

We once had the opportunity to make a small growth capital investment in an East African clinics and diagnostics business that had an exceptional management team. But we didn’t because we felt it was too early stage. In hindsight, the business has grown three times over the last two years, and has reinforced our views that backing strong and dedicated management teams is a winning strategy, and that in future we would take a risk on earlier stage growth equity if we found the right promoter and team.

What are the skills you need to succeed as a private equity investor in Africa?

General partners (GPs) must focus on creating the right management teams as well as the right strategic and operating partners. Moreover, there are different market opportunities in different countries; GPs must identify untapped sectors in high-growth countries. The right sector focus is also important; we focus on sectors that are correlated to the growing consumer class, which also have low levels of government intervention and that have relatively high barriers to entry.