Craig Chirinda on Him Helping to Inject 4 Billion USD into African Economies
On Craig Chirinda: What Would You do with 4 Billion USD…
Posted by beninmwangi on May 5th, 2007
eafrica.jpgWhat 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 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 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 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 is 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 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 survive … 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
-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?
* 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 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