Eva Warigia is a jack of many trades with a passion for Africans and their economic advancement.
As one half of the executive directing team of the East Africa Venture Capitalists Association, representing over sixty firms, she uses her knowledge of finance and strategy to position East Africa as a thriving investment hub.
In this interview, she talks about her leadership position, and how she’s working with stakeholders to promote investment in East Africa.
At what point in your life did you first learn about your field of work and what drew you to it?
I probably came across private equity in 2011. At the time I worked for a technology and corporate advisory firm as a strategy analyst focusing on helping businesses fundraise.
It was there that I got to interact with the different structures of funding.My docket as one half of the leadership of EAVCA is in leading the advocacy and intelligence - @eva_hawa Click To Tweet
You are one of the two executive directors of the East African Venture Capitalists Association (EAVCA) what exactly do you do?
EAVCA is a member association for private equity and venture capital firms who are interested in deploying capital in East Africa.
As a trade organization, we represent the interests of member firms deploying private capital in the region, which constitutes Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
We are the interface between the region’s stakeholders, the general public and the investors.
Our activities largely involve advocacy for the private capital sector, research, and intelligence for investors considering the region for investment.
Being the foremost networking platform for East Africa to advance thought leadership in the PE and VC space, and finally, conducting training for the sector. We also nurture the local professionals, as well as building awareness with the sector stakeholders.
My docket as one half of the leadership of EAVCA is in leading the advocacy and intelligence. This entails working with the sector stakeholders to create partnerships that promote investment inflows in East Africa.Internationally, less than 10% of venture capital funds go to female entrepreneurs. Is this situation just as bleak in East Africa?
This is also the case in East Africa.
There was a time when female-led enterprises were not as visible as they are now, especially on the funding front. Emerging trends for conscious investment (particularly gender lens investing) mean that the tide is slowly turning to acknowledge that female-led enterprises are equally lucrative.
Furthermore, women are more deliberate in their business planning and less likely to take investment capital for personal use.
What does EAVCA do to ensure that besides women-owned businesses there is diversity in general in businesses being considered for funding?
From 2018, EAVCA became more deliberate in local engagement by working with trade associations, incubators and accelerators to grow local awareness of PE and VC as alternative sources of capital. We are also ensuring we carry out industry-specific research showcasing opportunities that exist in East Africa.
One such research was on the opportunities available for fin-tech investing in East Africa, which we launched in March this year. This allows investors deeper access to sectors that have probably been on their radar but whose information may be hard to come by.I think it is important for technical entrepreneurs to find partners who will help them with the business side of their enterprise or product - @eva_hawa Click To Tweet
What are some of the mistakes you have seen female entrepreneurs make while interacting with venture capitalists, and what can they do to better pitch their businesses to investors?
While I would not categorize this as a mistake, I think it is important for technical entrepreneurs to find partners who will help them with the business side of their enterprise or product.
Far too many entrepreneurs are struggling to raise capital by themselves without the tools or skills to approach this. Thankfully, there are programmes and incubators that equip entrepreneurs with the skills needed to begin thinking of their vision as a commercial venture.
There is quite an array of accelerators available for African entrepreneurs such as MEST Africa which is available in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Cote d’ Ivoire or Growth Africa for East Africans.
There are also institution backed programmes like the Trade and Investment Hub (the Hub) by USAID, which is available in East, West and South Africa, or the Stanford Seed Transformation Programme in Ghana and Kenya.
Finally, we have philanthropy backed incubators also committing to support the initiative by Africa’s entrepreneurs such as the Tony Elumelu Foundation or Africa Netpreneur Prize by the Jack Ma Foundation.
EAVCA has been led by women from its inception. Can we interpret that to mean Africa doesn’t share the same discouraging international statistics when it comes to women’s leadership in VC firms?
As an association, we are privileged to have women as the champions of the industry in East Africa. For the VC and PE funds, the bulk of fund managers are still led by men although we have a growing number of women taking up that space.
I believe it is important for women to support each other in male-dominated industries such as ours and share their journeys so that we can all learn from each other.
How has working at EAVCA changed your perception of Africa’s potential to be an economic and innovation hub in the future?
I have always been an Afro-optimist and firmly believe in Africa’s value and ability to influence the future! Working with EAVCA has furthered my confidence in our potential as a continent.
I interact each day with people who are as passionate about Africa as I am and who are effecting positive change within their different spheres.
I am able to see how it is all shaping out from my bird’s eye view at the Association and it just fuels me to want to do more!
What is the favorite part of your job?
Every day, I meet people that are clear about how they want to change the global narrative of Africa. Also, building a pension fund that will channel its funds towards a transformative development agenda, there are also regulators who are removing trade barriers and entrepreneurs that are innovating solutions to unique problems.
There are so many people who refuse to be distracted by the noise and get up every day determined to leave a mark, and it is an absolute honor to interact and work with them!
What is the first thing you do every day to start your day right?
Introspect. I Remind myself of what my dreams are, what my values are and commit to applying the most truthful version of myself that day.
Also, I listen to and recite the Desiderata every morning as a reminder that I am part of something greater than myself.
What do you tell yourself when you are afraid?
“It could have been worse”
What advice would you give other women that are interested in pursuing venture capital as a career?
Be patient and be ready to put in the work. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. Also, do not be afraid to speak up.
What are your tips for someone just joining the professional world looking to start an investment portfolio?
My advice would be to identify individuals with whom one shares goals and interests and pool funds which they can then use for their investment per the group’s shared objective.
In Kenya for instance, this has really taken off with the pooled funds “chamas” investing in real estate, equities, treasury bills etc.
I also know of a group of young university ladies who pooled funds and started lending these funds to their fellow students while charging interest, as an investment.
Be mindful of your network as it is the base of your success.
Spend more time listening to others in a similar position and take notes.
There will be hard days, but do not lose sight of what matters to you.
Above all and to the extent possible, try to have a purpose that is greater than yourself; therein lies true success.
We all have our unique fingerprint for the world and yours is equally important!
When all is said and done how will you know you’ve achieved your dreams?
When people are confident enough to pursue their vision due to the service I provided.
It would be a place where my work for Africa grows beyond personal responsibility when other people buy into my optimism and are able to stand for and contribute to the development of an inspiring Africa.
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