Yeah – I know that “Rwanda Venture Capital” sounds a little out there and no – this isn’t yet another email scam migrated to your RSS feed. A Denver-based friend – Rob Fogler (a partner at the law firm of Kamlet Shepherd) and his colleague Antoine Bigirimana (the founder of the Kigali Center for Entrepreneurs) have started a Rwanda-based Venture Capital firm called Thousand Hills Venture Fund.
While I’m personally not terribly clued into Rwanda (or Africa in general), a number of my friends in Boulder (including Amy) are and it’s easy to support guys like Rob (Amy and I are investors in THVF) who believe “that the US business community must pay greater attention to the opportunities and challenges of doing business in emerging markets if it will continue to thrive in the globalizing marketplace.”
Rob pointed me to an article in the Washington Post by Carol Pineau titled “The Africa You Never See” which asserts that Africa’s media image – which is filled with stories about hardship, AIDS, war, genocide, poverty, and corruption – does the people of Africa a major disservice. Pineau suggests that the side of Africa we see is a “one dimensional caricature of a complex continent. Imagine is 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing and school shootings were all that the rest of the world knew about America.” Pineau’s article is great – she argues that while the view of Africa the media presents gets us to “dig into our pockets or urge Congress to send more aid” she goes on to say that “no country or region ever developed thanks to aid alone. Investment, and the job and wealth creation it generates, is the only road to lasting development. That’s how China, India and the Asian Tigers did it.”
Rob recently attended the IFC Annual Conference on Global Private Equity in DC. The IFC’s top delegate, Executive Vice President Assad Jabre, said in his remarks that he’d like the global private equity industry to focus on two areas in the coming years: (i) Africa and (ii) equity investments in the range of $50,000 – $500,000. Thousand Hills Venture Fund is the only true for-profits venture fund anywhere in the world doing just that!
The venture capital that Rob and Antoine are doing is truly risk capital and far ahead of the curve. Guys – you make me proud to be associated with you.