UK supermarket billionaire setting up investment vehicle for East Africa

British billionaire and philanthropist Lord David Sainsbury is set to launch an East Africa-focused high-impact investment vehicle that will assist local companies and entrepreneurs to grow.

Lord David Sainsbury

Lord David Sainsbury

Sainsbury’s great-grandfather founded retailer Sainsbury’s, the second largest chain of supermarkets in the UK.

He worked at the supermarket from 1963 and later served as chairman and CEO until 1998 when he withdrew after he was given a post in the British government.

Sainsbury was ranked 1,368 in last year’s Forbes World’s Billionaires list with a net worth of US$1.3bn

During a trip to Nairobi this week, Sainsbury revealed that his investment vehicle Msingi will further his commitment to create jobs, improve incomes and achieve sustainable industrial development in Africa.

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, a trust established by Sainsbury in 1967, will operate Msingi.

According to a statement by Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development, Msingi will support the establishment and growth of new companies in key sectors, and will undertake market and technology research and provide assistance to entrepreneurs and companies in business planning. It will also facilitate deal structuring between companies and technology providers and among entrepreneurs and companies.

Msingi will also manage an enterprise incubator linked to a seed capital fund, and possibly a venture capital fund. In the long term, the organisation will also offer advice to East African governments on growth and innovation policies related to priority sectors.

“We have worked in Africa since 1985, with the overall objective of creating jobs and improving incomes. With the setting up of Msingi, we are confirming our commitment to [achieving] sustainable industrial development through a number of ambitious sector development programmes,” said Sainsbury.

The foundation seeks to increase access to the finance and investment needed to transform African agriculture by supporting innovative projects that demonstrate business models and reduce barriers to investment. It has set up and funded programmes in the tea, forestry, cotton and textile sectors in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique, Cameroon and Uganda.

In 2005, Gatsby and its partners established a private equity fund dedicated to investing in agricultural small and medium enterprises across East Africa, the African Agricultural Capital Fund (AACF). Initially, the AACF invested $8m in a portfolio of 16 businesses and has since raised an additional fund of $25m.