He got his PhD in Biotechnology from Cambridge at 24. Today, he runs one Kenya's most iconic investment firms that is eying a listing at the Nairobi Stock Exchange. He tells Larry Madowo about the company's roots and links to State House, its investment in troubled Rift Valley Railways and the future for the firm.
TransCentury Limited (TCL) is an investment company based in Kenya that makes medium- and long-term investments across fastgrowing, under-served sectors in sub-Saharan Africa in order to generate consistent private equity returns for its shareholders. TransCentury was established 12 years ago by a group of African professionals and entrepreneurs who were aware of the growth opportunities on the continent. Since then, TCL has developed a reputation for generating exceptional private equity returns. CEO Gachao Kiuna previousl y w o r k e d f o r Mc K i n s e y a n d Company for six years and was i n s t r u m e n t a l i n d e v e l o p i n g Kenya’s economic blueprint, Vision 2030. “There is huge pot e n t i a l t o u n l o c k i n c r e d i b l e growth by modernizing domestic sectors, which are currently ine f f i c i ent and unde r s e r v ed,” says Kiuna. “For example, we are seeing the revolution that happened in telecoms now taking place in the power sector, which has huge latent demand.” TransCentury’s investment efficiency has evolved by establishing a high quality team, all of whom have experience in corporate finance, private equity and management consul t ing f r om working in emerging markets across Africa, Europe and the United States.
“It is this marriage of developed-world skills with practical pan-African experience that gives the team the knowledge a n d f l e x i b i l i t y t o c r e a t e a n d manage investment opportunities,” says Kiuna.
The company aspires to be subSaharan Africa’s foremost investment group in terms of portfolio size, corporate reputation and stable investor returns. TransCentury focuses on private equity, listed equity, funds of funds and real estate primarily within the sub-Saharan Africa region. TransCentury’s investment portfolio is currently centered around the power sector including electrical giants (East African Cables Group, Tanelec of Tanzania, Zamefa of Zambia and Kewberg Cables of South Africa) Infrastructure (Rift Valley Railways) financial services (Development Bank of Kenya, Equity Bank) consumer goods (Chaibora of Tanzania) and fund of funds (Aureos Capital Limited, Helios Investment Partners and Business Partners International). “We do businesses all over Africa, including subsidiaries in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa, and we are continually expanding into new markets,” explains Kiuna. “We have shareholders who are real captains of industry and successful entrepreneurs who combined, have hundreds of years of experience doing business in Africa and actively participate in the business.” As a result of TCL’s proven ability to turn around companies in Africa it does not shy away from companies that are underperforming. As part of its value creation strategy, TCL leverages its network and reputation to install new management structures. “People can see our results, and this is the most important factor in any market,” states Kiuna.“By turning around companies in high growth sectors, we not only make high returns but also contribute significantly to the economic development of this continent.”