Martin Ganda is exactly the sort of entrepreneurial, seize-the-moment story that illustrates the potential that could be unleashed in Africa with proper opportunity.
The co-founder of Africa-focused investment consortium Tamuka Group, and the president of a liberating non-profit foundation called Seeds of Africa – which focuses on educating disadvantaged school children in his home country – Ganda started out in poverty in Zimbabwe and owes much of his success to a modest act of generosity half a world away.
“I came from a very poor lower-class family,” he tells Euromoney. “My father was a general hand at a paper-manufacturing factory and my mother was at home taking care of five children. As we were growing up in the economic challenges of Zimbabwe, it became very difficult for my father to pay for my school fees.”
Help came in an unlikely form: a pen pal in Pennsylvania called Caitlin, who would write to him through a letter-exchange programme set up by their teachers. They corresponded frequently.
Ganda continues: “At some point she started not receiving my letters as frequently as she used to, and she asked why. I told her I got kicked out. And she said: I will send money from my babysitting job.”
It was $5 to $10 a month – sufficient to get him back at school and to put him on a path of education that subsequently led to a scholarship and dual degrees in economics and mathematics from Villanova University in Pennsylvania, followed by an MBA at Duke University in North Carolina.
Along the way he took an internship at Goldman Sachs, where he would end up working for five years, and subsequently a job at Deutsche Bank.
“My experience on Wall Street was life-changing,” he says. “I was very excited by the speed, the people I met and seeing the impact of finance first hand. I saw the power of finance in development, creating jobs, building societies, in making a difference.
"It attracted me to say: maybe we can do the same thing in Africa and leverage the power of finance to develop the continent through investment.”
That became the genesis of Tamuka Group.
Ganda explains: “With Tamuka, where I saw an edge was that my partners and I grew up in Africa, we know Africa inside out, we love Africa and we have unparalleled relationships across the continent and deep networks globally gained from working abroad. 'We should start a vehicle that can raise money here [he is based in New York now] and invest all over the continent.'”
Tamuka serves as an investment partner, an adviser or as a consultant, from infrastructure to telecommunications, energy, financial services and mining. A recent example involved working with a London-based company on bringing automation to the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, and a hydroelectric power project is in the works.
“We focus on projects that not only make profits for our partners but also transform lives in Africa,” concludes Ganda.