Posted by: beninmwangi | May 5, 2007

On Craig Chirinda: What Would You do with 4 Billion USD…

eafrica1.jpg

What would you do if you had 4 billion USD in your Rolodex (if through your personal and professional contacts you had access to it)? That’s a really tough question, isn’t it? If you have said yes, then that makes two of us. But fortunately there is someone who’d know exactly what to do with it, because he has already done it. Today we are going to introduce you to this gentleman so that you can find out what he has done and what his future plans are. His name is Craig Chirinda and he has actually channeled roughly 4 billion American dollars into the southern Region of Africa through his work as an investment banker and a venture capitalist.

Before we go into the interview let me tell you a little bit about Craig. He promotes trade and investment into the southern Africa region, which is the place of his childhood. Although he is based in the States, he is actually a Zimbabwe national. He has handled nearly US$4 billion in leads, financing deals, and joint ventures flowing into Africa and if that isn’t enough he speaks seven languages. And he has managed to get all of this under while still in his early twenties.

Before going further I can not begin to tell you how much Mr. Chirinda has inspired me. I tried to cover this interview from several different angles, so you will notice that it is broken up into sections. The ideas behind doing it this way was that this would allow the story to go deeper than just being an inspirational story and also allow the story to be a “how to” map for anyone seeking success in African business and investment. Hopefully, you will agree that this interview is just that!

Also, special thanks to you Craig for agreeing to do this interview. It was very kind of you to take time out of your busy schedule to talk with beninmwangi.com, it was indeed a pleasure and an honor to meet you.

So Who is Craig Chirinda?

* Can you expand a little bit on what your role as a principal at Nova Partners and Chief Strategist for eAfrica Consultancy entail? How have you been able to balance the two so well?

My role at Nova Capital as a Principal is easy to define, I basically originate deals. It’s a parallel to an Investment Banking S.V.P. role. I build relationships with prospective and existing clients, find out their financial needs and initiate the ‘deal-making’ process. I communicate with clients throughout the deal making process and make sure we meet their needs. I love that role as it allows me to meet and develop friendships with REALLY talented and inspirational people.

The Role at eAfrica is a bit more abstract and difficult to define, as it involves structuring ‘across-the boarder-joint-ventures’ (joint venture matchmaking), finding market opportunities (in export markets) for my clients. On some days I structure and execute fundraising initiatives on the behalf of my clients. I was even involved in a product development initiative for one of my clients. Its fun-stuff, each day at eAfrica is always unique and challenging (in a good way).

My roles compliment each other. Most of my investment-banking clients usually start off as my clients at eAfrica Consultancy. So, balancing the roles is simple as they are symbiotic!

* What was your childhood like?

It was fun and very much normal. I did what most kids do; hang-out with my friends, trade video games and watch movies. I really loved school and doing well in my classes. I didn’t study hard, but I quickly caught onto things. I wanted to be involved in a lot of the extracurricular activities, especially debate!

I spent a lot of time with my parents and my maternal grandfather. He (my grandfather) was a very enterprising person and really inspired me to get into business…

My parents didn’t really give me many rules. They practically granted me a total independence, when I was still very young. I was basically trouble free, as I didn’t like to disappoint my parents in any way. I loved (and still love) them rather obsessively.

* What part of the world did you grow up in?

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Harare (post-independence Zimbabwe). Lovely place!

* Which factors do you think have contributed the most towards your investment success in Africa-your economics and mathematics background, the extensive travels, your wide cultural knowledge, your business network, was it your plan and determination, or something else?

That’s a hard question. I think every experience I’ve had contributed to who I am right now. But on second thoughts it has to be my network. It’s the people I keep around me! They are excellent and they flood me with excellence! They are generous and do everything in their power to see me succeed.

* Can you describe what a typical day is like for you?

I wake up at 5am, do my breathing/visualization exercises and drink 2litres of water. I then do intense cardio on my treadmill for 30 mins. Have my nutritional shake (Full Strength – By Shawn Phillips), soon after and take a shower and I’m usually done by 6am.

I have breakfast and am usually done by 6:20am, After that I read my emails Check my PDA to see what I have to do on that day, and go over thousands of publications and news articles until about 8am. I get to the office, check my voice mail and then ‘the BUCK starts’—usually at 9am.

Most of my mornings are taken-up by appointments and conference calls and that doesn’t stop until about 2pm. I get out after that, for an hour-long lunch (usually with a client) and talk things through with them. After my lunch if it’s a Monday or Friday I hit the gym for about 45 mins of strength training. Take a quick shower and I’ll be back in the office by 4pm. From then until 8pm I do the paperwork that needs to be done. I’m normally out of the office by 9, then get together with friends, or read news articles (to get a feel of the capital markets). I’m usually in bed at 11pm.

* Do you or have you had a mentor who has guided you through your business growth?

I have a lot of people I turn to for advice and help.

  • Marty Secada – Marty is a Networker, Investment Banker, Financial consultant to hedge funds and investment banks, and, a Business Development and off shoring expert. I called-in on Marty a lot when I started and didn’t have a clue about what I was doing. He gave me the direction and taught me the approach to take. A great guy! For more info on Marty visit http://www.ivyplus.biz
  • Joe Radic – Joe is the VP of Sanford Bernstein. He’s a very knowledgeable guy and I learn a lot about life and business from him. A brilliant guy
  • Yvette Dubel and Ron Wopereis. Great people. They teach me a lot about operating in harmony with the laws of the universe. They are deep people and are very spiritual.
  • The Late Gerry Lemberg – Gerry was a venture capitalist and taught me a lot about analyzing ventures, from a non-financial point of view. He was a very knowledgeable and learned guy. Wonderful fellow! You can read some of his articles visit http://www.silverfoxvp.com
  • My Parents –Taught me the value of NETWORKING.
  • Charles Cianfrani –A VERY intelligent guy. He’s a hedge-fund manager and oversees over a billion in assets. He’s taught me to think big and to take things to the next level. Talk to me a year from now and you’ll see exactly what I’ve learned from him
  • David Smollan – a South African hedge fund manager. He’s a great guy and a whiz when it comes to devising fund raising strategies. A super guy visit http://www.icapital.co.za for more info on Dave!

* Do you see yourself-as a venture capitalist or as an investment banker, if given a choice between the two which would you choose ?

I see myself as neither. I’m an economic reformer. I stimulate economic growth in Africa through the transactions I originate!

* How did you get your start into the investment arena?

I think when I was 7. I used to lend out my pocket money to other kids at exorbitant interest rates. (laughs) I loved every moment of that as I made quite a lot from my ‘deals’. Our school Principal stopped me from doing that when he found out…

* How were you able to structure nearly US$4 billion in African investment within such a short span of time?

I had a network of people who were more than happy to help.

* How were you able to locate these deals?

Through my network and through a strategic cold calling effort.

*What benefits have your clients, investors, and investment recipients been able to derive from working with you, in terms of returns and any other benefits tangible or intangible?

Clients: My clients are usually firms that have been neglected and/or under-served by African financial institutions. By working with me, they were able to gain access to sophisticated lines (‘bulge bracket type of instruments) of funding, which were not previously accessible to them. This has allowed them to expand their operations; they increased their production volumes and/or entered new markets.

Investors: Investors have gained access to a greater range of African deals. This has allowed them to diversify their investment risk across a broader range of investments.

*We may have touched on this one before, but what do you think is the relationship between trade and aid? Do you feel that trade and investment is more helpful to Africa than aid?

I warn you that this isn’t going to be easy to explain. But here goes:

We all know that the struggle for survival motivates people to engage in economic activity…. What happens to people when you give them aid, lets say enough food to last them a year? You make their lives easier; you remove pain from their struggle for survival … When you remove pain from their struggle for survival, you’ll also do another thing; you’ll remove the motivation to engage in economic activity… If people are not motivated to engage in economic activity, they will not become economically active. Therefore, the ultimate result of your philanthropic efforts would be the stagnation of economical development!

I believe that it would be better to channel ‘aid money’ into Micro finance institutions that serve SMEs. After that is done, the funds should only be loaned (commercially) to entrepreneurs who have taken the initiative to start their own projects… I mean those entrepreneurs who are already successful and seek funding, to gear their businesses (to take them to the next level)… I believe that this approach will promote a spirit of entrepreneurship in people who reside in developing nations…. It is this spirit (the spirit of entreprenership) that promotes economic activity and economic development!

What Industries in Africa interest Craig the Most?

*You have stated on the eAfrica Consultancy website that you are interested in

-Biometric Security

-Mining of Gold, Platinum, and diamonds

-IT infrastructure, networking, and broadband products

-Mobile & fixed line telephony products

-Bio fuel generation

What is it that you like about these industries?

I’m well networked within those circles. So its easier for me to set-up anything in those industries.

* Does the level of infrastructure in southern Africa ever get in the way of your making progress in these areas?

The level of infrastructure is not the real barrier. The real barrier is people who are resistant to change, who also happen to be in high office. They make it hard for Africa to develop, because they live at least 2 centuries behind everyone. Their resistance to new approaches of doing things really costs—without benefiting—the societies they govern… If Africa truly had free market systems in place, most of its problems would be eradicated.

* Are there any other industries in Africa that interest you outside of these?

Construction and real estate.

* Is there one of these industries draws the most business than the others?

MINING!

* What type of investors typically fund African deals that lie within these industries-are they institutional or are they more like individual angel investors?

Institutional investors like Private Equity Houses, Insurance/Pension Funds and Hedge Funds.

Craig Chirinda on How to Invest in Africa

* What do you think is the biggest advice that you could give a potential investor, regarding doing trade or investment in Africa?

Have an open mind and learn all you can about your target investment environment.

* Based upon your experiences are there any obstacles that a potential investor into Africa should be aware of before moving forward? If so, how have you handled these hurdles?

Things in Africa move a slower pace than they are used to, so they should be patient. They should make sure that they have lobbying machinery (in the form of chiefs, politicians, local business people and religious leaders), that they deploy to accelerate the pace of a transaction. If they don’t have the lobbying machinery, the transaction just won’t happen!

* Are you finding that there is a profile or a set of characteristics that makes one more likely to invest or do business in Africa?

Yes there is a common thread that runs through all people who invest in Africa. They are generally people who are open-minded about a lot of issues, contrarians at the very extreme. The people who invest in Africa, generally speak more than one language, have traveled extensively and have deep and diverse networks.

* What do you see as the biggest drivers and deterrents of investment in Africa, today?

Drivers: The need for greater diversification of portfolios has pushed fund managers to invest in a greater range of Markets (including Africa). Secondly, the rapid growth of the managed funds industry has given fund managers more ‘deployable’ assets to ‘play with’ and some of the assets make it to Africa. The Information-Age which was brought about by the Internet revolution, has also given investors information to act on. Prior to that, some investors didn’t consider investing in Africa, because they didn’t have enough information on opportunities in Africa.

Deterrents: People are just ‘closed-minded’ when it comes to Africa.

* What would you say might be the availability and ease of investment opportunities in Africa for the small and/or unsophisticated investors?

Its very difficult for small investors to participate in African Investment opportunities, because there is no platform that allows them to access African opportunities with ease… Soon this will change (laughs)… I don’t want to give away too much information too soon… But soon everyone will be able to invest in any African company from the comfort of their own homes.

What’s next for Craig Chirinda?

With all that you have accomplished, what is next for you? Where do you see yourself going with African investment over the next ten to 15 years?

I’ll keep doing what I’m doing right now, but at a larger scale. The only change is that I’ll be writing articles for online and print publications on the subject of African Investment.

I’m now a board member at Empowerment Works http://www.empowermentworks.org , a global sustainability Think-Tank, which promotes sustainable entrepreneurship. I intend to make ‘EW’ global and to make it one of the biggest humanitarian organizations in the world!

I intend to contribute more to humanitarian activities in Africa and to balance them with professional interests.

Well, I hope that you have enjoyed this interview. Below are some related links-until the next time…

Nova Capital Partners

eAfrica Consultancy

1-nigeria-intercontinental-bank-deal.pdf

joint venture CNN zim

Joint venture Eon Technology India

power plant deal

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Responses

  1. This is an excellent interview Benin and I for one am grateful to Craig for taking the time to share his experiences and knowledge with us. We shall be closely watching his next moves to help open up investment markets in Africa to the small non-institutional investors of the world. Sounds exciting.

    You need to syndicate this interview to other blogs and websites so that it receives the greatest attention possible in the blogosphere. African Path and Africa Unchained would be good candidates as welll as many others.

  2. Dear Benin.

    you have one stop shopping with my firm.
    We need to talk.

    pacome

  3. BRE:

    Thanks. Also, I just noticed that you were the first to comment on the last post done here also. I really, really appreciate that. I am also interested to see what Craig will do for the small investors. Thanks again!

    PB:

    Hey there, PB, glad you could make it to the site. No doubt, let’s do that then.

  4. this is the best interview, i would like an introduction to mr chirinda, i do have a business plan for biometric security business.

  5. This is great work my friend. I agree with BRE’s comment above, and I will also suggest posting a picture of Craig, I don’t why he won’t send you one.

  6. […] Benin has some words with him on his blog via this post: http://beninmwangi.com/2007/05/05/on-craig-chirinda-what-would-you-do-with-4-billion-usd/. […]

  7. Imnakoya:

    Thanks. Good point. Thats something that I am unable to answer, although again you make a valid statement…but anyhow, how is everything else? By the way, when you get to break from your busy schedule, please email me.

    Gerald:

    please contact me on Linked In. We are already connected! Thats also very good to know, that you have a business plan for biometric security. I was on your site today and thought it was cutting edge, some of them were a little technical for me, but I can appreciate it though.

  8. What a great read! I suggest that Craig should stick to his decision of breaking “no press” rule. I know him from networking, however there are new perspectives that only surfaced in your article. Keep up the good work Benin!

  9. Thank you for the very informative and inspirational post.

    – Steve

  10. Thanks Benin and Craig for this indeed interesting post!

    I agree on take on the importance of entrepreneurship and the combination of aid and microfinance. What I would add is the role of institutions as well as governmental framework.

    Best,
    Juergen

  11. Bolelang Rakeepile:

    Thanks Bolelang, for adding a new dimension to this post. You may be right, it is possible that Mr. Chirinda could actually benefit from more press. The people who read about him will certainly benefit.

    Steve:

    No problem, good sir. Glad to be of service. Thanks for stopping by too!

    Juergen:

    What type of governmental framework do you have in mind? And also, coming from your UN assignment and having an extensive economics background, I am guessing that you probably have lots of examples. Me, I have always been a little skeptical about what govt’s can do. Which is why I am so very curious to know of some real life examples of governmental frameworks in Africa working together with investors, micro finance institutions, and small and medium sized enterprises to provide more room for investment.

    Also, something that you have said might spark some de ja vu in some of our firends reading who attended any of the Kenya Open for Business Forums in D.C., Atlanta, and maybe Minnesota. This is the closest example of what you mention that comes to my mind, although it is still in “the works”.

    The Kenyan Ministers were essentially telling the Kenya Diaspora investors that the hundreds of millions that they send home is helping to pave the way to greater opportunities and now they (the gov’t) want to be of greater assistance and make the laws work easier so that perhaps the Dispora Investors might consider sending even more home specifically for investment.

    Thanks Juergen!

  12. Amazing post Benin. I have put this gentlemen on my list of people to meet now. I am encouraged with this post and look forward to hearing more on this.

    Oh and BTW I have put down on my goals list that you and I are going to personally meet within the year!!!!

  13. David, that is so funny that you made this comment, while I was going over some of the other comments here.

    That’s what I’m talking about too-let’s meet.

  14. Can Craig Chirinda provide us with some additional online or print media references about his work with Nova Capital Partners, Nova Global Markets Group, New Bridge Venture Partners, and Blue Financial Services? I became curious about the claim of managing investments in Africa-based businesses over a 3-month period that totalled more than $4 billion USD (or was that SA Rand?). I am having no success in finding news about that on any of the company websites I’ve listed above or in the international press online . I did find an Mbendi profile on Nova Capital Partners and its subsidiaries but little in the form of independent business news reports about their business activities and clients in Southern and East Africa. Thank you.

  15. Hello,

    Thanks for the kind comments! Bolelang, we should catch-up, when I visit SA.

    BRE, I understand your skepticism:
    -Joint Ventures: Eon Technologies India and CNM Zim , for the marketing of Eon’s
    products in Zimbabwe, Zambia and SA.
    –Valuation of joint ventures is based on terminal value
    -I don’t work with Blue Financial. That transaction was originated by either Paul Dixon or Servaas De Kock
    -Figures are in US$ not Rands
    -A media reference on a deal that was originated by Nova’s Fola Odufuwa in NIGERIA
    :
    -I have a Power Plant deal in a Southern African country and construction deals in Angola that are still in the market and are prior to my relationship with Nova, Aggregate value of exactly USD4 billion (nothing more nothing less). Working on them in conjunction with Jeffrey Davis from Star Elite Funding …
    -My relationship with Nova is 4 months old, I’m in the process of structuring a joint ventures, with a Tunisian Bank, a Kenyan Bank and an Egyptian bank. Other JVs I’m structuring are with a corporate finance house in Kenya, SA, Nigeria and the UK. PLUS a relationship, with a newly formed Merchant Bank in Tanzania that has a portfolio of USD2.5 billion. PLUS a relationship with a Malaysian Corporate finance house, for representation in South Eastern Asia
    -My relationship with my clients is the same as a doctor patient relationship. I’m obliged to keep things confidential until transactions are out of the market.

    I’ll provide you with information on an ongoing basis, as the transactions get completed.

    Sincerely

    -Craig Chirinda

  16. BRE:

    I think that’s my fault for not asking for a list of the deals. But here is a list that Craig attempted to post in his reply to you. For some reason the links didn’t show up.

    But here is some documentation:
    nigeria deal
    joint venture CNN zim
    Joint venture Eon Technology India
    power plant deal

    Craig:

    Hi, thanks for taking the time out to respond. I know you are probably still in North Africa, so the fact that you took the time to respond speaks volumes about you. Also, as I mentioned to BRE, it is my fault that I didn’t have a more detailed list of your prior deals. But I really do appreciate that you provided that in your reply comments.

    Thanks again.

  17. Craig,
    This is such a wonderful article.
    Am based in Kenya, specialising in tourism. Am just wondering how we can extend these deals to this part of Africa. I have seen what you specialise in; mining, real estate etc, but in Kenya one of the leading income earning business is tourism.
    Would be glad to hear your comment on this.
    Mathew.

  18. Everyone is free to contact me directly on:
    craig@empowermentworks.org

  19. Thanks Craig for providing us with more information about your work on the continent. No more skepticism in this corner. Good luck with your ongoing business ventures and I do hope that they help to create lots of jobs, career opportunities, and an improvement in the standards of living for the people of the countries where you guys are working. It must be really tough trying to develop new business deals and opportunities in your native country Zimbabwe under the present political leadership.

  20. Mathew:

    Hi Mathew, it’s so good to find your thouhtful words here. In fact, it is something that perhaps we shall talk about making more regular.

    Craig:

    You are really over the top, going above and beyond the call of duty. I am very sure that this is only just the beginning and that there will be so much more to come from your ventures. Thanks also for providing your contact details, as I am sure that the readers here will really appreciate that.

    BRE:

    You are indeed as they say a true scholar and a gentleman. You know, at the end of it all, that is what it is all about…Creating more opportunities, jobs, business, and brighter future for the areas in which we all seek to do business in Africa.

    Thanks for always remaining true to those values.

  21. The vision and acts that Chirinda an his networks are able to accomplish are very inspiring. I would like to know a little bite more about the platform that would allow any and eveybody with sufficient capital to invest from the comfort of their PCs and smart phones ( why not). This is much needed, i am a proponent of investing in African stock and bond markets. I would like to hear a little bite more about the promotion part of this venture, how would they reach out to the African diaspora and the populace throughout the continent and convince them to use the upcoming platform. A lot of my peers do not own any securities from the African markets, they could easily open a bank account with let’s say a citybank and order by Phone,fax,email the buying or selling.
    I would like to say that I am speaking from the perspective of an Ivorian citizen studying abroad. I do not know the feelings and reason guiding Africans born and raised abroad, but for all the others that are recent immigrants but stronger ties to their individidual countries it would make sense to create an investment porfolio that goes beyond the now cliche “retirement BIG mansion” and the western unions to family members.

    I would like to know how you are going to not only sell your concept but also a culture of investment to the african working force ( home and abroad) , a culture of investment that will tell them among other things that it is ok and smarter to invest not only in your homemarket but also in other African markets. I know I want to invest in other markets outside of Cote d’Ivoire

  22. Benin
    What a wonderful interview. It trully gets to the core of Craig’s Africa-based initiative without being just a puff piece. These are the sort of interviews the Economist and Businessweek should be doing. Good work.

    Craig
    I love your idea of developing a platform where regular people can invest in Africa from the comfort of their own homes. It’ll add another much needed point of access for Africans and non-Africans to get more involved in the development of Africa beyond aid. For now your project secret is safe with us. 😉

  23. […] Zimbabwean Craig Chirinda on how he channeled $4 billion of investment dollars to Africa. […]

  24. Frederic:

    Very deep comments. I think South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya stand out to me as countries that have organized or are in the process of organizing more systematic ways of their DIaspora populations investing in the more formal investments. But Cote d’Ivoire I am not certain about. There is a fellow who commented on this post (the second cooment) who organizes business homecomings her in Atlanta for Ivorians here in the States. You should talk to him. He is on my linked in and I know him closely from offline.

    Kofi:

    I appreciate the trackback. Also much agreed, as far as the big news houses. But after we bloggers build enough steam and traffic it will be very difficult for conventional news houses to ignore these types of stories. Because they might be ignoring at the risk of losing traffic to the alternative news sources or shall I say the new conventional African media sources…

    Thanks again fellows!

  25. Great interview Benin.
    Thank you Craig for your willingness to share and inspire others. I wish you the best in your endeavours.
    Quite inspiring.

  26. I just love people who think out of the box and am honored to work with Craig! His CAN DO mentality is just what the world needs right now!

    As Executive Director of a global sustainability think-tank in action, Empowerment Works, working in Zimbabwe, I appreciate Craig’s dedication to private sector based strategies to uplift communities, resolve poverty and restore human dignity!

    Best wishes and highest regards,

    Melanie St.James, MPA
    http://www.empowermentworks.org

  27. Hoseah:

    Thanks for sharing your feelings on the interview and I agree with you that Craig’s willingness to share with others is something that makes this interview so much more special.

    Melanie St.James:

    The private sector approach to uplifvting communities is something that I believe is quickly coming to the forefront. What you and Craig do is such a big part of it. This is another reason that makes me happy about sharing the priveledge of our conversation with the world. You too exhibit the mentality that the world needs right now and if I can help to introduce more open minded people to forward thinkers like yourselves, then my job is done.

    Thank you very much for sharing your time and encouraging words with us.

  28. Hi Benin,

    Thanks for your comment.
    I strongly believe that through such forums and networking facilities, Africa is headed to greater heights. The wrong perceptions seem to be on their way out and in comes prosperity. For sure, the opportunities are endless, one just needs to identify and pursue them.
    Lets keep it up!
    Mathew.

  29. Mathew:

    You are welcome and thank you too. Please, let’s further this discussion. You should be getting my email shortly.

  30. Mr Benin, world class interview, I would like my readers to benefit from the information contained. I will steer them your way to read this.

  31. JD:

    Thanks, I would really appreciate that a great bit. Glad that you enjoyed it too!

  32. Excellent scoop.

    Its very insightful when you get to hear from deal-makers.

  33. Ssembonge:

    Thanks a lot, I agree with you that it’s always a wonderful privaledge to hear from the folks who are out there making the deals. Stay tuned…

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  36. I am amazed that I just got to know about this guy who is doing so much for Africa! I am a Nigerian and have ample opportunities in Real Estate, how do I get to Him? Please this is serious stuff…How do I get regular stuff from your site, like this interview and so on? Please “register” me or something…omanibe@gmail.com


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