Africa's rising stars: Kayode Akinola, director, private equity, KKR
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Africa's rising stars: Kayode Akinola, director, private equity, KKR

Nationality: Nigerian, based in UK

For years, mainstream market players snubbed the private-equity asset class in Africa, citing high perceptions of risk, limited leverage opportunities, small deal sizes and illiquid public markets, which typically reduces the possibility of a primary exit through an initial public offering.

However, during the past five years, there has been an explosion of interest in private equity amid the continent’s economic renaissance, a burgeoning middle class, a shortage of listed African stocks and the hunt for yield in alternative investments.

Kayode Akinola 

Boasting patient capital, local knowledge and industry expertise, Kayode Akinola, a youthful smooth-talking executive with roots in Nigeria, is at the forefront of a new generation of dynamic deal-makers in Africa. Akinola, a former partner at Africa private equity specialist Helios Investment Partners, which he joined upon its 2004 inception, has tirelessly marketed the opportunities in the asset class and scoured the continent for start-up, growth and buyout transactions.

Earning acclaim through a slew of capital-raising missions and investments, including Helios’s investment in telecommunications infrastructure, Akinola was poached by US buyout firm KKR in January 2013 to lead its debut charge in the region, signalling how African PE is now seen as a mainstream asset class.

Akinola’s talents will be tested as the private equity deal-making is set to grow, though the numbers involved are still modest relative to more mainstream emerging markets. Last year saw 21 transactions worth $703 million, compared with $192 million in 2010, and $2.3 billion in 2008, according to Dealogic.

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