A common growth path for many capital-intensive businesses in sub-Saharan Africa involves developing the model in an initial market, gradually transitioning from a local operator to a regional organization, and eventually establishing a platform for larger-scale fundraising to sustain continued growth and expansion. Particularly for private-equity backed companies, if appropriate, the objective to list on a public stock exchange is often a clear aspiration and a core part of the longer-term financing strategy. This has direct implications on the profile of the leadership team. When the company is ready to pursue the next phase of growth, identifying a Chief Financial Officer with a robust understanding of public markets and the ability to prepare a company for a stock exchange listing is a critical success factor.
Having concluded a round of fundraising, CEC Africa Investments Limited (‘CEC Africa’), a developer, investor and operator of projects in the power sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, engaged AAG for support in hiring a group-level CFO to work alongside the CEO and lead the company to its next financing milestone. At the time of our engagement, the company owned two operating assets in Nigeria and had a pipeline of additional development projects in multiple countries. The company had offices in Zambia and Nigeria. CEC Africa’s shareholders included CEC Plc (Zambia) and Standard Chartered Private Equity. The shareholders’ primary objective was to create a leading private power company in Africa through investment in high value power generation, transmission and distribution projects across the continent.
With an intention to list CEC Africa on an international stock exchange in the future, CEC Africa was seeking to recruit an experienced CFO to join the company’s small and focused management team. This high-profile position has full responsibility for:
- Raising capital for CEC Africa and its subsidiaries
- Evaluating and recommending new investments
- Establishing the strategic direction of the [finance] group
- Providing leadership to the CFOs of the operating subsidiaries
- Building and leading the accounting and treasury functions.
The CFO was also expected to establish a team of experienced finance personnel to ensure timely financial reporting in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards and to institute the monthly consolidation of the operating results of subsidiaries, effective financial controls and accounting systems, treasury management and planning / budgeting processes.
Recognizing the substantial capital requirements and significant development impact associated with the power sector in Africa, we appreciated the importance of engaging finance professionals with a robust understanding of how to leverage global capital markets to support local, private-sector led initiatives. We focused on identifying individuals with a blend of experience working with Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), private equity and infrastructure investment funds, as well as traditional financial institutions.
Amongst the competencies and personal qualities we prioritized in executing the search, we included an appetite for pursuing a pan-African vision, in alignment with the values of the existing CEC leadership team. While the CFO was expected to have extensive knowledge of project finance, corporate finance, and treasury, we emphasized a strategic rather than technical bias in assessing the ability for potential candidates to lead significant commercial transactions. We also highlighted knowledge and contacts within financial institutions active in the infrastructure and power sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa as an advantage.
Our team identified Ije Ikoku who joined CEC Africa as the Group CFO in January 2015. Ije brings over a decade of experience in infrastructure finance and development, with extensive power sector exposure in Africa and other emerging markets.
Prior to joining CEC Africa, Ije worked as a Senior Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Washington, DC and was responsible for all facets of deal sourcing, structuring, negotiating, and financing of transactions on the power sector in Africa as well as Latin America. Before assuming her role at the IFC Headquarters, Ije was the team lead for Infrastructure/TMT/Energy investments at the IFC’s Nigeria office. Earlier in her career, Ije served as the Finance Director for Geometric Power, one of the pioneering power development companies in Nigeria. While at Geometric Power, Ije helped build the finance team and assisted with capital raising.
In addition to the experience she brought from living and working in Nigeria and the US, Ije had also worked with entrepreneurial technology ventures across in Namibia and Ghana.