Phatisa hires PE veteran as CIO

After an ag-focused stint with a foundation in London, former Bridgepoint director Robert Jenkins joins the Africa-focused firm as it continues to raise its $300m agriculture fund.

Mauritius-based Phatisa has hired Robert Jenkins, a former director at Bridgepoint Capital, as senior partner and acting chief investment officer.

Duncan Owen, joint managing partner of the Africa-focused private equity house, said that Jenkins’ role will involve guiding the firm’s deal and portfolio teams.

“African private equity is still in its infancy, but Phatisa has developed a structure and competency more aligned with a mature private equity business,” said Jenkins. “Their focus on ESG and impact is industry-leading.”

Jenkins joins Phatisa after four years as Africa investment director at the Gatsby Charitable Foundation in London, a position he describes on his LinkedIn profile as focused largely on agribusiness investments in East Africa.

His career began with a 16-year stint as founding partner at mid-market buyout firm Phildrew Ventures. After Phildrew was acquired by UBS in 1998, Jenkins spent four years managing the firm’s funds as a UBS managing director and an additional three as a partner at portfolio management business IRRfc, in a position designed to maximize value from the Phildrew funds, according to the profile.

‘Development equity’

In addition to agriculture, Phatisa also manages a fund devoted to African housing that closed on about $42 million in 2014.

In November, the firm secured a $10 million commitment from the African Development Bank for its Food Fund 2, which has a target of $300 million.

According to an investor presentation seen by Agri Investor that month, the 10-year closed-end fund is targeting net returns of 23 percent through investments in inputs, processing, manufacturing, trading and retail. The firm is active throughout Africa and its investment pipeline for FF2 includes businesses in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and elsewhere, according to the document.

“There will be a move towards developmental finance institutions supporting permanent-capital vehicles”
Duncan Owen, Phatisa

The firm’s first ag fund, the Africa Agriculture Fund, closed on about $246 million in September 2013 after securing commitments from the Development Bank of Central Africa, an unnamed fund of funds and private investors in Europe and North America. Capital from the vehicle supported nine investments, including Democratic Republic of Congo palm oil producer Feronia, specialized fertilizer blend provider Meridian Group and Torre Equipment Africa of South Africa.

Phastisa describes itself as a “sector-focused development equity fund manager”. Its hire of Jenkins, an executive with experience in both private equity and foundations, demonstrates the key roles of both investor types in African agriculture.

In February, EXEO Capital co-founder and managing partner Herman Marais told Agri Investor that decreasing reliance on developmental finance institutions will be an important step in the development of the agriculture sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016, Owen told Agri Investor that Phatisa does not invest in farmland, in part because of the design of investment vehicles then focused on the asset class.

“We foresee that there will be a move towards developmental finance institutions supporting permanent-capital vehicles, with lower return expectations and patient investors,” Owen said. “This would provide some risk mitigation.”