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Advisory Board

The Advisory Board comprises experienced leaders from the global business and political community. These individuals offer their time and services to promote and guide the ethos of African business and investment, and use their long-standing and in-depth knowledge to provide insight on the diverse realities across Africa’s politico-economic landscape.

Global Advisory Board

Robert Hersov

Rob Hersov is a South African entrepreneur, senior executive and private investor based in Cape Town. He serves as Chairman and Chief Executive of Invest Africa, Chairman of African Capital Investments, deputy Chairman of VistaJet, Chairman of Adoreum Partners, and Chairman of AON South Africa.

Rob has been focused on investing in Africa, a continent close to his heart given his South African upbringing and family ties. He has also made investments on the continent and has close relationships with businesses across Africa. In 2013, Rob saw an opportunity to create a platform for the growing number of individuals becoming involved in pan-African investments and founded Invest Africa. He also founded African Capital Investments to build an Africa-focused investment platform.

Rt Honourable Mark Simmonds

Mark Simmonds was until recently The Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister with responsibilities for Africa, the Caribbean, UK Overseas Territories, International Energy and Conflict Prevention. He served as a Member of the UK Parliament for 14 years.

He focussed on driving and facilitating inward investment into Africa across a range of key economic sectors. He has a strong knowledge of the economic and political composition of African Governments, countries and regions.  He chaired the UN Security Council on two occasions.

Mark now has a number of international roles including senior consultant to Kroll, Deputy Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council as well as Chairman of the Advisory Board of Invest Africa. He currently holds a senior advisor position at a large US hedge fund.

Runa Alam

Runa has 29 years of investment banking, emerging market entrepreneurship and private equity experience. Before founding Development Partners International in 2007, Runa was CEO of KZAM, a joint venture between Zephyr Management of New York and Kingdom Holding Company, which managed PAIP-PCAP, sponsored by the International Finance Corporation and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Runa was formerly a director of the AIG Africa Infrastructure Fund, managed by Emerging Market Partnership in Washington, and has “on-the-ground” management experience in emerging markets having founded and managed both Peregrine Bangladesh and Union Capital Bangladesh in the 1990s.

Runa started her career in New York working for investment banks including Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch in mergers and acquisitions and corporate and tax-exempt finance.

René Awambeng

René has worked in Pan-African banking for over 20 years. He recently joined the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), as Director, Client Relations in 2016. In his role, he leads the design and implementation of Afreximbank’s client-focused business strategies, including managing the delivery of all Bank products to the clientele and managing the operation of Afreximbank branch offices.

René is a regular commentator on current trends in Commodity Trade Finance, Regional business, African Trade and Infrastructure Development at international banking conferences and seminars.

Paul Hinks

Paul Hinks is the Chairman of our affiliated company Invest Africa US as well as a board member and the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Symbion Power, LLC.

As the driving force behind Symbion, he has spent his life in the power industry where he has been responsible for the construction of power plants, transmission lines and substations. His career spans 30 years and in that period, he has worked in the USA, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

In 2010, Symbion Power was awarded two large U.S. government-funded contracts building distribution lines and substations throughout Tanzania. The following year, Mr. Hinks successfully negotiated Symbion’s acquisition of a 120MW power plant in Dar es Salaam, thereby concluding Symbion’s first power asset acquisition. Today, the company is one of the United States’ largest owners of power assets in Africa with new investments in Rwanda, Kenya and Madagascar.

Prior to joining Invest Africa, Paul spent four years as the Chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa.

Koosum Kalyan

Among her many professional roles, Koosum has worked as Chief Economist at Shell Southern Africa, General Manager of Corporate/Downstream, and then as Shell’s Senior Business Development Executive for Oil & Gas Exploration in Africa responsible for new country entry to Libya, Angola, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Mozambique.

She currently serves on the following Boards as non-Executive Director for: MobiIe Telephone Networks Holding (MTN Group Ltd), Petmin Mining, Aker Solutions Oil and Gas (Norway), Anglo American South Africa, Aos Orwell (Nigeria), and as Senior Non-Executive Advisor to Boston Consulting Group.

Dr Carlos Lopes

Dr Carlos Lopes is Professor at Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice and Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town and Visiting Fellow at Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford. He is a member of a dozen Boards, including the Global Commission for Economy and Climate, Kofi Annan Foundation, Graduate Institute of International and Developments Studies in Geneva and the Lisbon University Institute, that he Chairs.

He served the United Nations in several prominent roles, the latest being the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, based in Addis Ababa (2012-2016).

Kari Gahiga

Kari Gahiga is an entrepreneur, investor and a senior executive in asset management, mining and technology. He is currently Chairman of ROKA mining, vice chairman MobiCash holding Ltd (Hong Kong) and partner of Sallfort partners.

Zemedeneh Negatu

Zemedeneh is widely recognized as one of Africa’s top business leaders and has received numerous global awards and recognitions.

An American of Ethiopian origin, Zemedeneh has worked in the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, the Middle East and throughout Africa. He has advised Wall Street investment banks, Governments, Sovereign Wealth Funds and multinational corporations in various sectors including financial services, airlines and consumer products. His high profile clients have included Diageo, British American Tobacco (BAT), Blackstone (the American private equity firm) and Ethiopian Airlines.

Zemedeneh was the founder of Ernst & Young Ethiopia and had served as its Managing Partner for 18 years. In 2017 he was appointed the Global Chairman of the American investment firm Fairfax African Fund, LLC, based in Washington D.C. Fairfax has invested tens of millions of dollars in Africa the past several years with significant additional investments committed for the next three years. Zemedeneh is also the Chairman of the African subsidiary of one of the largest and best known European multi-national fashion design and manufacturing companies.

Lanre Akinola

Lanre Akinola was born and raised in Nigeria and is the Editor of African Business, IC Publications. He helped found and later served as the Editor of This Is Africa at the Financial Times. Lanre is a 2014 Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow and has worked with the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa.

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor has had more than twenty years experience in the trade exhibitions industry with a reputation for successfully managing both private and public companies. She is well versed in the venue and organising sectors, of the events and exhibitions industry.

Dubai Advisory Board

Frank Braeken, Amatheon and Unilever Africa

Frank N. J. Braeken specialises in finance and in general management. From 1996 to 2013, he held various management functions in different countries for Unilever, including a position as President of Unilever China (Shanghai), President of ­Unilever Namca (Dubai), and President of Unilever Africa (Dubai / Durban). Subsequent to leaving Unilever, Frank N. J. Braeken has acted as investment advisor and investor for large scale agro and food enterprises on the African continent. He is also a non-executive board member of Buhler, the Swiss engineering group, Marie Stopes International. In 2016 he was elected Chairman of the Board of Feronia Inc, a Toronto listed palm oil producer on the African continent.

Gianpaolo Pera,  African Capital Investments

Gianpaolo is the Chief Executive Officer and a co-founder of African Capital Investments. Prior to founding ACI, Gianpaolo was an Associate Director at Marwyn Investment Management, a specialist investment firm with over USD1.5bn of investments. He started his career at PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) in the Corporate Finance team specializing in real estate and financial services and completed over 15 transactions across a broad range of industries. Gianpaolo is a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst and holds a MSc in Finance from the London School of Economics and BA (Hons) in International Finance & Accounting from Regents Business School in London.

Zahara Malik, Access Power

Zahara Malik is a frontier and emerging market business development and investment promotion marketer. Prior to joining Access, Zahara was the VP of Impact Investing for Global Investment bank and also worked as the Head of GCC and Middle East for Invest Africa, a global private investor network which encourages FDI into Africa, founded by Rob Hersov. Prior to Invest Africa, Zahara headed up the Investor Relations team for Sunbird group, an East African construction, real estate and business services group. She is currently a trustee of Jaago Foundation, where she opened her first school in Chittagong in 2012 and has a real passion for education and developing sustainable livelihoods. Most recently Zahara was a finalist for the “rising star of 2017” category for the prestigious, British Muslim Awards, UK.

Salim Bitar, Rani Investments and Aujan Group

Salim Bitar, CEO of Rani Investment, leads the Africa Hospitality and Real Estate practice at Aujan Group Holding.  Since 2011 he has led the transformation of the Group’s hospitality business to emphasise investments in business tourism, in addition to forming strategic partnerships resulting in equity participation, rebranding and expansion.  Most recently, Bitar concluded a Joint Venture with Minor International who invested 49% in an Aujan hotel and mixed-use development project in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique. Prior to joining the Aujan Group in 2011, Bitar spent 21 years in the Telecom Sector working for Motorola where he held senior finance and operational roles in the United States, Asia, and the Middle East & Africa.  After leaving Motorola, he joined Dubai Holding where he held senior roles leading the F&B business, and later the restructuring and delivery of a $2 Billion residential project in Dubai.

Sanjeev Gupta, AFC

Sanjeev, as Executive Director of Financial Services, is responsible for Treasury, Syndication and Advisory lines of business for AFC. Sanjeev has over 25 years’ experience in investment management, private equity and corporate advisory services and his forte has been to blend together divergent corporates, investors, and governments to develop sustainable business and development models. Prior to joining AFC, he was the Managing Partner in charge of Emerging Markets M&A at Ernst Young Transaction Advisory Services. Sanjeev was also the Chief Executive Officer of Sanlam Investment Management, responsible for Emerging Markets as well as Founder and Managing Partner of Emerging Opportunity Consulting.

Sanjay Sethi, Phoenix Global

Sanjay Sethi is a Food and Agribusiness professional focused on developing winning integrated supply chains in Africa, Middle East and in India. He is a leader of cross functional teams for rolling out large supply chain, food production, irrigation, agri-infrastructure, international trade and investment opportunities. Furthermore, Sethi serves as an advisor to various Governments, Institutions, Development Finance Institutions and Multilateral Agencies for economic empowerment of farming communities and is a strong believer in the power of private business to support the social agenda in a more sustainable manner especially in the food security of the world.