History

Jacana Partners was founded in 2008 by a group of UK entrepreneurs and philanthropists who, having achieved success in business, wanted to harness their skills and experience to support economic growth in Africa.

Jacana commenced operations using a partnership model, investing capital and providing mentorship from European private equity experts to local fund managers in Africa. Jacana entered into partnerships with two local fund managers in West and East Africa in 2010: Fidelity Capital Partners in West Africa, which was established in 1997 as part of the Fidelity Group, and InReturn Capital in East Africa, which was founded by two Dutch entrepreneurs in 2007.

The partnerships quickly proved successful, providing proof of concept for Jacana’s unique model, which combines international private equity experts with highly-experienced local teams. Jacana is now carrying out a merger of its European and African operations to create a single pan-African fund manager operating under the Jacana brand that will manage a new $75 million pan-African SME fund we are currently raising from international investors. As the first step of this merger, our West and East African operations rebranded to Jacana Partners in August 2012 and January 2013 respectively.

The six founders of the combined Jacana group share a background in private equity, venture capital and entrepreneurialism and include:

 

Stephen Dawson

A pioneer in the UK venture capital industry 30 years ago, non-executive Chairman of ECI Partners and co-founder of Impetus Trust, a venture philanthropy charity. Stephen is co-founder and Chairman of Jacana.

 

Connie Helyar

A successful entrepreneur in fund administration for private equity, Connie co-founded Jacana in 2008.

 

Lord Joel Joffe

A philanthropist with a background in human rights law, a successful entrepreneur and former Chairman of Oxfam. Joel co-founded Jacana in 2008.

 

Bart Meijis, Managing Partner and CFOBart Meijs

An experienced financial consultant and entrepreneur, founder of Jacana’s East Africa operations (formerly InReturn Capital).

 

Simon Merchant

A successful entrepreneur and venture capital investor, Simon is co-founder and CEO of Jacana.

 

Steven Otto

An entrepreneur with deep experience in trade, retail and production and founder of Jacana’s East Africa operations (formerly InReturn Capital).

 

 

Why the Jacana Founders focused on SME growth capital

Understanding that small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the key engines of economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation in Africa, the founders started to look in more detail at the barriers to SME growth.

They quickly established that the majority of entrepreneurs operating SMEs struggle to access capital to grow their businesses. To get a better understanding, the team carried out extensive research looking at the availability of financing for SMEs operating in the so-called ‘missing middle’ of private sector finance in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The research found that supporting SMEs through private equity investment would offer a scalable and sustainable platform to drive widespread economic development but, critically, that the traditional private equity model would not work in Africa due to lack of track record, resource deficiency and at times, limited entrepreneurial management skills.

 

How Jacana solved the problem

Jacana was created as a solution to this problem. The team set about developing an innovative business model that would be able to overcome these challenges, which involved sourcing the very best teams on the ground and recruiting a group of highly experienced private equity experts from Europe.

In early 2009, the team carried out extensive due diligence in selected African markets, which resulted in partnerships with two highly experienced local firms; Fidelity Capital Partners (now Jacana Partners) in Ghana and InReturn Capital in Kenya.

 

 

We also recruited a number of private equity experts, our Investment Directors, who, having achieved success in the West, were looking for an opportunity to make an impact with their remaining careers. Jacana enables them to put their skills to good use building the capacity of the local teams and sharing their investment experiences, whilst giving them the chance to learn about doing business in Africa. We now have six Investment Directors on our team.

 

Since becoming part of the Jacana group, our teams on the ground have undergone rigorous training and have developed their track records and expertise through months of working and investing alongside our Investment Directors, who have over 100 years’ combined experience in private equity.

 

 

Jacana today

The result is what we believe to be the very best SME private equity team in the market. Five years into our lifespan, the Jacana concept is now proven. Our teams are proving their skills on a daily basis, structuring great deals, growing great businesses and creating hundreds of much-needed jobs in Africa.

We are now focusing on raising a new $75 million pan-African SME fund which will allow us to significantly increase the scale and geographic reach of our operations, enabling us to grow successful businesses all over Sub-Saharan Africa and deliver strong returns to our investors.