Having been criticised in the past for being a disproportionately male-dominated profession, the South African private equity (PE) industry is experiencing a much-welcomed wave of accomplished female professionals rising through the ranks.
Two such rising industry powerhouses are Polo Leteka, Executive Director and co-founder of IDF Capital, and Samantha Pokroy, founder and CEO of Sanari Capital, who both received Women Impact Awards at the 8th Annual Private Equity Awards Gala Dinner in London in October, which showcases their excellent standards in deal making on the continent.
Upon accepting the special accolade, Leteka highlighted the need for establishing more women-owned-and-led PE firms. “There is already a significant number of women who work for large male-owned PE firms, but we need to see more women in the industry who are establishing and leading
their own firms. This will in turn attract more women entrepreneurs to this type of capital, which has been proven to add significantly to the growth of businesses and the overall economy,” says Leteka.
Echoing this sentiment is Mametja Moshe, CEO of Moshe Capital. “More female representation in the industry is critical for achieving diversity in strategies, ideas and methodology of growing companies, and bringing the required returns to limited partners,” says Moshe. “Through increased female participation in the industry, we can also have a greater influence on the transformation of investee companies. As we work with talented women, we know where to find potential employees for our investee companies who, like us, strive for quality and exponential growth.”
Determined to be a change-maker and raise funds for female-led businesses in this respect, Leteka has played a principal role in the first female-led African private equity fund, which closed on 11 November 2019 and took centre stage at the recent African Investment Forum in Johannesburg.
The brainchild of Alitheia IDF and led by Leteka and Tokunboh Ishmael, the fund is supported across three continents and plans to leverage the power of women as producers and consumers to radically transform the African economy and change lives. The outcome of this fund will mean that women will be taken more seriously by investors and will be seen as the innovators that they are.
Explaining why this historic fund is necessary, Leteka in her capacity as Principal Partner in South Africa, said: “With women making up the majority of the world’s population, Africa cannot afford for the majority of its citizens not to unlock the economic potential that we possess as a continent and as women. We take inter-regional trade seriously and want to unlock the economic potential of this to the future prosperity of our continent.”
To see this happen in practice, Andrea Böhmert, Co-Managing Partner at Knife Capital, believes that increased awareness is key. “We need to create awareness and demonstrate that there is a viable career path for women in our industry. To do this, we need an increased number of female fund managers so that the path to leadership becomes visible.”
When it comes to concerns about how this may affect the bottom line, Pokroy says that the proof is in the pudding. “Every bit of research shows that gender-diverse teams outperform. Most recently, a report released by IFC – a member of the World Bank Group – revealed that private equity and venture capital funds with gender-balanced senior investment teams generated up to 20% higher returns than funds with less diverse leadership.
“This confirms our view that business cultures that promote, celebrate and capitalise on differences (gender, race, culture, religion, age, upbringing, and educational disciplines) are the way of the future. We believe that businesses that do not embrace this will do so at their own peril,” Pokroy concludes.