[INTERVIEW] Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais - Quantum Global Group: How to do Business in Africa
Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Swiss-based Quantum Global Group and co-founder of the African Innovation Foundation, talks about business opportunities and challenges in Africa.
What is your view on the African economy?
“Over the last years, six of the world’s fastest growing economies were on the African continent. The overall growth of the continent is likely to reach 5.75% in 2012. The indicators are impressive, but there is still a lot of unrealized potential. Whatever sector one cares to examine, from mineral extraction to agricultural production and from infrastructure to manufacturing, Africa currently delivers only a fraction of its vast potential. I am convinced that the best way to build Africa’s capacity is to invest in local innovation and entrepreneurship.”
How are the African financial systems dealing with the global crisis?
“Africa’s post-millennium growth spurt and its rapid recovery from the economic downturn triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers have helped to awaken an unprecedented investor interest in equipping the African continent with the infrastructure it needs to maximize its wealth. The post-crisis return to average 5% growth rates is a clear signal that investor interest in Africa is now ascendant – but it is only the beginning.”
While Africa’s economic impulse is recognized, its sources and endurance are less understood. How do you assess the challenges and opportunities on that continent?
“What should drive the changing pattern of interest and investments in Africa is not the lure of short-term gain, but recognition of a necessity to provide the African continent with the infrastructure it needs to establish a sustainable economic development. This requires a significantly longer-term investment horizon than many Western financial institutions and corporates have been historically accustomed to.“
You have been successfully investing in developed economies and emerging markets. You are the founder, initiator and Chairman of the Advisory Board of Quantum Global Group in Switzerland, you are also on the board of Banco Kwanza Invest in Angola. What advice do you have for multinationals planning to extend operations in Africa?
“From my experience, in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa, I can say that the continent needs companies and investors that are prepared to put their skin in the game, with a long-term commitment. And this is not only a sign that the company is serious about enabling the economy of the host country to grow, it is also an indicator of their greater likelihood to succeed. As anywhere else, companies need to deeply understand the country’s environment and it requires due diligence. In addition, managers must be aware of the fact that there will be challenges in certain aspects of infrastructure and telecommunications. Last but not least, the continent has many untapped talents/talented professionals who should be supported and given the opportunity to learn, gain skills and grow. This will be key for business and economic success. (economic success- or economic development of the continent?)”
What is the business focus of the Quantum Global Group?
“Quantum Global focuses on bridging between wealth and appropriate investment opportunities for Central Banks and Sovereign Wealth Funds, financial institutions, corporate investors and high-net worth individuals in emerging markets. Can we elaborate on the success of the Group over the years?”
What about Banco Kwanza Invest?
“Banco Kwanza Invest is the first investment bank in Angola, operating since 2008. We manage projects in the fields of private equity, corporate finance, merger and acquisitions to mention a few.“
You are also a member of the Foundation Board of African Innovation Foundation (AIF). Why did you decide to lead this initiative?
“I am a dual citizen of both Angola and Switzerland. This fact gives me a unique perspective of the continent. I can easily recognize the opportunities that this continent offers, but also the challenges it faces. Creating an environment which promotes innovation and entrepreneurship is fundamental. The African Innovation Foundation was established exactly to support innovation and sustainable development in Africa. This means, for example, supporting home-grown innovations, facilitating technology transfer as well as promoting other platforms that enhance the exchange of ideas and collaboration among researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers.”
Applications are already open for the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) 2013, created in 2011 by The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF). What do you expect to achieve this year?
“The Prize aims to support Africans’ efforts to develop new products and services, increase efficiency and drive cost-saving. In few words, we are looking for ideas that move Africa forward. AIF will award USD 150,000 to winners who deliver market-oriented solutions for African-led development. We do hope that this initiative will inspire African innovators and motivate leaders from all sectors to invest in innovation made by Africans for Africans.”
About Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais
Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais is an internationally active entrepreneur and investor. A Swiss-Angolan citizen, Bastos de Morais grew up in Switzerland and has held various CEO and senior management levels in a variety of international companies, leading numerous start-ups, mergers & acquisitions and company flotations. His interest in and ties to the African continent have led to numerous successful business ventures to date but it is his passion to making a difference in people’s lives that drive him to continuously find new opportunities. For example, he founded the African Innovation Foundation in 2010 with a focus on driving innovation and sustainable development on the continent. Bastos de Morais holds a Master of Arts in Management from the University of Fribourg.