Building World-class partnerships: Hiring an experienced CFO

Challenge

As private equity in Africa becomes increasingly attractive to global investment firms, the value of experienced local partners becomes instrumental. A growing number of partnerships have emerged to enable the flow of capital from global institutions seeking to capitalize on the Africa investment opportunity, to Africa-based institutions with proven capabilities to deliver. Once partnerships have been formalized, it is often necessary to bolster the teams to execute with renewed focus and agility. In particular, appointing a seasoned Chief Financial Officer (CFO) can be a critical step towards establishing the transparency and stability needed to ensure that investors and partners remain aligned.

Founded in 2012 by an experienced group of project developers including Brian Herlihy (who also founded and previously led African communications enabler SEACOM), Black Rhino established a strong track record of developing energy and infrastructure projects across sub-Saharan Africa. After announcing a partnership with the global investment firm Blackstone in July 2014, Black Rhino engaged AAG for support in hiring an experienced CFO to join the company’s corporate team based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Black Rhino’s active project development pipeline included projects in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa. Through its portfolio company Sithe Global, Blackstone also had experience in Africa as a lead investor alongside the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development in the 250 MW Bujagali Hydropower Plant in Jinja, Uganda on the Nile River. In August 2014, Blackstone announced a partnership with Dangote Industries, adding another prominent Africa-based institution to the group.

With a mandate to identify, develop, finance, construct and operate large-scale energy infrastructure projects across sub-Saharan Africa, backed by high-profile partnerships involving stakeholders within and outside the continent, Black Rhino sought to recruit a CFO with deep knowledge of project finance in Africa and world-class management experience.

Our Approach

Given the composition of the existing team and the significance of the recent partnerships that had been established, it was critical to ensure that the incoming CFO not only had a complementary skill set but also had the potential to build a shared ambition with the rest of the leadership team.

We anchored around our client’s strategic objectives to define some key considerations for the role:

  • Ensuring and enabling effective financial reporting to and communication with partners and shareholders
  • Solidifying the team’s expertise in project finance and project development in Africa to ensure robust financial governance and performance management
  • Supporting the continued development of a young company with strong growth potential

We identified individuals with substantial experience leading and building finance teams in large-scale project environments. While Black Rhino’s mandate focused largely on energy infrastructure development, we engaged individuals with experience in mining, industrials, and infrastructure more broadly.

Amongst the competencies and personal qualities we recognized in strong candidates, we highlighted the ability to operate as a functional leader in a lean and fast moving executive team, and an interest in working in an entrepreneurial environment.

Solution

Our team identified Paul Inbona who joined Black Rhino as the group’s Chief Financial Officer in April 2015 and assumed responsibility for all corporate financial and risk management activities as well as financial oversight for all portfolio companies.

A strategic finance executive with 25 years of experience, Paul had previously served as CFO for several mining and industrial companies operating in Africa. In that capacity, he had been responsible for managing the financial performance of individual project operations as well as establishing and managing financial reporting systems at the group level. Earlier in his career, Paul was an investment officer with the management company of a $105M private equity fund sponsored by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), focusing on investments in sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa.

Paul holds an MBA from INSEAD (France) and an MSc in Engineering from Ecole Centrale de Paris (France).

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