Exclusive Interview: Cobus Visagie, Chief Executive Officer, Africa Merchant Capital Limited

Cobus Visagie, Chief Executive Officer, African Merchant Capital Limited grants an exclusive interview to Capital Markets in AfricaHe shared with us his personal life experiences and leadership style. Cobus shares his thought about Africa trade finance gap and viewed that the yield on well packaged Africa credit opportunities is however attractive and hence there is a demand for the product.

Thanks for granting this interview. Please tell our readers more about your background and what motivated the choice of your career path?

COBUS VISAGIE: I was born, raised and educated in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch, and although the town was then mostly known for its vineyards and wine estates, today it is home to the HQs of many leading companies in Africa, including Remgro, Medi Clinic, Distell, Zeder, BAT, Capitec, PSG and many others. After completing a B.Comm (Hons) degree at the University of Stellenbosch, I started my career at Coopers & Lybrand in Stellenbosch (auditing among others the companies mentioned earlier) and qualified as a Chartered Accountant by the time PricewaterhouseCoopers was formed in 1998. I spent 7 years with PwC, whilst I also managed to pursue a successful international and professional rugby career, firstly in South Africa and when I left SA and PwC in 2003, I joined Saracens Rugby Club in London.

After retiring from rugby, I was introduced to the concepts and principles of investment and merchant banking in my role as Principal for Africa at Templewood Merchant Bank, a London-based private merchant bank, leading origination and distribution of transactions across Sub-Sahara Africa. I came to the realisation that a partnership driven and risk sharing investment model, basically the way banks financed businesses 50 years ago, is the right model for where Africa is in its growth cycle and I left with another colleague, Jan Louis van den Berg, to start Africa Merchant Capital, with a vision to build a private merchant bank with an exclusive focus on the Sub-Sahara Africa midmarket.

Africa’s trade finance gap is estimated to be in the region of US$120bn. How can investors find value in Africa’s credit markets to meet some of this unmet financing demand for small businesses? What are the biggest barriers to entry? And what needs to be done in order to open up this asset class for financing African trade?

COBUS VISAGIE: In 2015 the Africa trade gap was estimated at more than $600bn by the IFC and AfDB research study. The key to engaging with international finance is to consolidate the current credit opportunities and demand in the African markets to represent a quantum that is of interest and attractive to the globally focused banks and investment firms. The consolidation is, however, a long process and is not easily scalable due to the very high due diligence expectations from the international market. The yield on well packaged Africa credit opportunities is however attractive and hence there is a demand for the product.

An extract from the INTO AFRICA July 2019 EditionTrading Africa’s Prosperity. To read the full article, please download by clicking: INTO AFRICA PUBLICATION: July 2019 EDITION.

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