Media & News

SAVCA Conference 2021: Re:imagining life after Covid for private assets

The world has changed dramatically since SAVCA held its last conference in 2020 in the unforgettable Stellenbosch region. Covid-19 has forced us all to adapt to a new normal and for SAVCA, this included hosting their annual conference virtually for the first time.

The overarching conference theme was re:imagine, an apt idea given how the pandemic has forced us all to re-look how we live our everyday lives.

MC Zipho Sikhakhane, CEO of EMZ Advisory said: “We need to re:imagine ourselves in the context of our organisation, re:imagine the organisation itself and how it creates value, re:imagine how we invest and re:imagine how we collaborate as an industry,” she said.

SAVCA Chairperson, Lelo Rantloane, who delivered the conference’s opening address, also advised delegates to re-orient themselves and their organisations to position for whatever the industry’s post-Covid future looks like. “We all need to re-think strategy, transform our organisations and the culture of our businesses to ensure success in the post pandemic world,” he said.

The theme was evident across all sessions of the conference as panellists and speakers brought their individual perspectives on what it means to re:imagine private equity investing after Covid.

Other notable recurring themes over the two-day conference included the role of infrastructure investing, the importance of collaborative and strategic execution, and the value of the social contract between the public and private sectors in South Africa.

SAVCA conference, Day 1

The first platform session of the conference saw Anne-Marie D’Alton, CEO at Batseta, moderate a panel discussion on the proposed changes to Regulation 28. The aim of these changes is to make it easier for retirement funds to invest in infrastructure to generate the returns investors need, while also acting as a resource to rebuild the economy.

Overall, the session highlighted just how much work still needs to be done in this area for the implementation and execution of the proposed changes to be successful. Ensuring alignment between retirement funds, that proper classification and definitions exist and that oversight and monitoring is effectively undertaken are all steps in the right direction.

The second informative session was also positive in tone as the expert panellists discussed the business case for investing in Southern African private equity.

Encouragingly, both Runa Alam, Co-Founding Partner and CEO of Development Partners International (DPI) and Vuyo Ntoi, Joint Managing Director of African Infrastructure Investment Mangers (AIIM), pointed out that despite the devastation Covid-19 has wrought, the fundamental business case for investing in Southern African private equity has not changed. “Demographics are still young and driving productivity, urbanisation is still high and technology take-up has accelerated as a result of Covid-19,” said Alam.

Wherever the opportunities lie though, execution needs to be your defining feature, according to Alam. “Your ability to execute is what really matters. This means an excellent and cohesive team with complementary skillsets, a supportive culture and following proper processes and procedures,” she said.

Fittingly then, the final session of the day was about how to execute using company culture as a value driver.

SAVCA conference, Day 2

The first main platform session of the day was moderated by Tanya van Lill, CEO of SAVCA, where five panellists answered her insightful questions into how they have had to adapt to the spread of Covid-19.

The speakers also ran through some of the lessons they’d learned through the Covid-19 experience which included the importance of frank conversations, how leadership is about value add – not just capital, and how technology has changed the way we operate and educate.

The second platform session of the day saw Cathy Goddard, CEO of FyreFem Fund Managers interviewing David Wilton, CEO of Zhang Partners. His advice to delegates? “Think of expansion beyond South Africa as something you can do just north of the border, don’t look to Australia or Europe first,” he said.

The second part of this session was a panel discussion moderated by Prof Nick Binedell of the Gordon Institute for Business Science. He called on the speakers to share their thoughts on how South Africa should go back to basics to recover from the pandemic.

The discussion centred on the roles the state and private sectors would have to play, how South Africa needs to digitally upskill its workers especially black women and black youths, and lessons businesses learnt through the crisis.

Wrapping up

The last sessions of the conference covered how private markets are evolving and disruption is being amplified by Covid-19.

First time awards

The conference was not only about re:imagining the future of the private equity industry and the region as an investment destination, it was also an opportunity for SAVCA to honour the excellence, dedication and innovation within the industry with their inaugural SAVCA Conference Awards.

Congratulations to the winners of the various categories as voted for by their peers:

•           Acquisition – small/mid portfolio company: Sanari Capital for their investment into LightWare Lidar

•           Acquisition – large portfolio company: Sanlam Investments for their investment into the Cavalier Group

•           Exit – large or small portfolio company: Pembani-Remgro for their exit of Octotel PTY LTD

•           South African Institutional Investor Impact Award: Alexander Forbes Investments (South African Private Markets Programme)

•           Fund Manager Impact Award: Norsad Finance

•           Service Provider of the Year: SANNE Fund Services

Coffee Conversations and Knowledge Hubs

The other unique aspect of SAVCA’s virtual conference was a number of themed Coffee Conversations and Knowledge Hubs over the two days. These were opportunities for delegates, presenters and members to mingle online and share insights on relevant industry trends and topics.

Coffee Conversations ranged in subject from how to manage distressed assets in times of uncertainty to gender lens investing, fundraising during Covid-19 and how Private Equity fund managers can have a positive impact.

The Knowledge Hubs also represented a diverse array of industry specific topics including trends in fund domiciliation, analysis of latest fund terms, the potential impact of BEE regulations on the Private Equity industry, tax updates and many more that featured the latest thinking in the private markets landscape. 


About SAVCA:

The Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA) is the industry body and public policy advocate for private equity and venture capital in Southern Africa. SAVCA represents in excess of R185 billion in assets under management through 170 members that form part of the private equity and venture capital ecosystem. SAVCA promotes the Southern Africa venture capital and private equity asset classes on a range of matters affecting the industry, providing relevant and insightful research, offering training on private equity and creating meaningful networking opportunities for industry players.

For more, visit our website:

Follow us on Twitter @SAVCAssociation and LinkedIn