Venture Partners Botswana (VPB), the largest venture capital outfit in the country, stood shoulder-to- shoulder with its co-organiser for the African Venture Capital Association conference, IFSC, stating that the move will bring money into Africa but Botswana entrepreneurs stand much to gain from the conference.
The conference which brings about 300 monied international delegates into the country between March 16 and 18, this year is expected to be an eye opener to most of Batswana investors who are seeking opportunities within and beyond the borders of the country.
The association, which has full and associate members from 18 African countries and nine internationally, controls about US $ 5 billion of institutional funds which are seeking home within Africa.
“The conference will bring a collection of industry players and we expect an increase in private business as a result of that. This will bring all players geared towards bringing money into Africa,” head of VPB, Anthony Siwawa, said in an interview.
The newly developed interest comes at a time when there is an outcry about the marginalization of AfricaÔÇö-the poorest continent on earth ÔÇö in terms of Foreign Direct Investment.
The African plight was seriously highlighted in 2005 during an international Commission on Africa, instigated by the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The Commission called for an injection of about US $ 50 billion through a special facility in order to “fish-out Africa” from poverty.
“International investors will come and meet in Botswana and they will look at possible opportunities in Botswana. And the local entrepreneurs will also develop contacts with them and understand what other opportunities are there outside Botswana,” Siwawa said.
“I think this (event) will add to the diversification of the local economy which we have always talked about.
“This will also give us a chance to show-case the success stories of venture capital and attract other funds,” he added.
The conference will be attended by people from the investment banks ÔÇô largely from Europe – who are scouting for new homes for their moneyÔÇöprivate equity funds, investors and economists.
Further, the conference is expected to raise awareness about the African success stories and, at the same time, raise the countries’ profiles.
“This will give us the opportunity to open-up and do away with the myth that emerging markets are a risky place. Yes, there are challenges but it will give us the opportunity to deal with those challenges,” he added.
The conference also came at a time when Africa is being said to be “under grabs” but there is also an emerging will among its people to take charge of their destiny. A raft of measures is being put in place to put the continent on the radar screen which includes democratization, re-alignment of the legislative structures and the harmonization of tariffs across most of the African regions.
“This will give us an opportunity to look at other challenges which are impending investment in Africa, it will not be all about praises,” Siwawa said, adding that issues relating to foreign exchange controls, political risk and tariffs will feature at the conference.
But, he is optimistic that some of the impediment could be ducked-out through some regionally based international financial service centers such as the Botswana and Mauritius ones. However, he warned that lack of liberalization increases the service charges within the African region.
He said the conference will directly benefit the country in terms of the hotel and hospitality and the transport sector. Over the two days, more than P1 million pula is expected to be spent in Gaborone alone.