Aziz Mbarek, founding partner of Tuninvest AfricInvest, whom we met during the signing ceremony that marked the first Closing of the Maghreb Private Equity Fund III (MPEF III), tells us about this instrument and its role in the promotion of SMEs especially in post-Revolutionary Tunisia.
What is the data sheet of the “Maghreb Private Equity Fund III” which is worth more than € 96 million?
Managed by the group Tuninvest – AfricInvest, the fund has met many international investors including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Dutch Development Agency (FMO), IFC (World Bank Group), CDC Entreprises ( Caisse des Dépôts Group), Proparco (a subsidiary of the French Development Agency), DEG (German Development Agency), SIFEM (Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets), BIO (Belgian Development Agency) and Averroes Finance II (fund of funds dedicated to the Maghreb and Mashreq, sponsored by CDC Entreprises and Proparco).
Maghreb Private Equity Fund III is an investment fund that will support Tunisian firms. It will provide them with financial resources to accelerate their development or contribute to their creation. I think it’s the best way to create jobs. And it is the private sector, mainly small and medium enterprises, that generates jobs.
These firms need resources to be able to do so. Hence the genesis of the fund which will allow also to help companies better organize themselves, improve governance, work on identifying new markets and thus to be an instrument to bring growth to the private sector and SMEs in Tunisia.
What are the criteria needed to qualify for this fund?
When addressing small and medium enterprises in general, we target quality management. When you have people in front of us that are consistent, have clear ideas, are sufficiently open and present the criteria of good governance, we are open to focus with them on their projects, to study them thoroughly and then accompany them. In fact, there is no one recipe.
The launch of Maghreb Private Equity Fund III coincides with the creation of the Deposit and Consignment Fund and the Generational Fund. Is it coincidence or a concerted goal?
To be honest, it is a coincidence but a happy coincidence. We commend the fact that the fund will start when the Ministry of Finance makes its announcements and organizes a number of events around these support structures. The answer is yes, it’s a coincidence, because we work to establish a fund of this nature and of this size. It took a long time to get to achieve it at this time.
What additional contribution will it bring to Tunisian SMEs?
If we all agree on the fact that today, the real need for us all is the creation of jobs, the fund will play a key role in this process. It is already giving more visibility to Tunisian companies in need. The latter will be one of the actors in this new Tunisia to which we aspire all.
You have recently reported that Tunisia is already a hub for investment and job creation in the Maghreb and Africa. How to make it a real financial hub?
We all know that Tunisia is small. So whatever area you look, you are obliged to approach it in terms of exports, whether regarding an industrial company or a company operating in the service sector .Just because the market is reduced. With respect to our activities, since the creation of Tuninvest, we sought to operate in a region larger than Tunisia in order to accompany Tunisian companies seeking to expand beyond our borders and then, because we seek more opportunities for success and wish to position ourselves in a wider area.
So, regarding the segment that is the activity of venture capital or private equity, we managed to have a pan-African position, and now we have a significant presence in North Africa, mainly in Tunisia and Algeria, East Africa and Central Africa. I think that we are addressing the financial sector activities one by one and we have the opportunity to play a regional role. And there must be a one by one analysis. For instance, when we take the bank finance, it is possible that in Tunisia 2 or 3 players that outperform in terms of leasing activities, can play an important role in the regional or African scale.
We are the first to buy the leasing network in Africa, it works remarkably well and we are a leading brand in seven or eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa. So it’s possible. When you look at the activity of market intermediary, I believe that two or three players could play a comprehensive role knowing that international investors interested in Tunisia are interested not only in our country but in all developing countries.
When they face a vis-à-vis that is good for Tunisia, they would not hesitate to call on its services. There is not a recipe but a willingness to do so. There is an analysis to be made sector by sector so that each sector can play a role, either at the regional or at the pan-African level.
What role could Tuninvest play in promoting the financial market in Tunisia, especially after the date of October 23?
To describe our business in a basic way, we must enter the business capital, and then supports the development of the latter. Five and Six years later, we must dispose of our stakes in the financial market. Hence, the point is to provide a quality offer in the financial market, thus contributing to bolster the offer which is one of the important vehicles to create a consistent market.
Finally, how you see the future of this market in the coming years?
I am by nature optimistic about the future of this market and especially about the future of Tunisia.