Investing in Impact: Paul Kavuma is champion of Africa’s economic resilience

No one has greater faith in African resilience than Catalyst Principal Partners CEO and founder Paul Kavuma, MBA ’93. In fact, he’s built his career on it, leaving the U.S. for Africa in 2004 to lead private equity investing at Actis Capital. Even when COVID shook the global economy, Kavuma’s confidence and commitment were unwavering.

After years of momentum, the pandemic brought economic uncertainty and extinguished much of the venture capital activity throughout the continent. Deals fell from a total of $4 billion in 2019 to just $1 billion in 2020. But after two decades of leading investments in Africa and watching companies overcome challenges ranging from economic downturns to civil war and terrorism, Kavuma knew there was reason to remain optimistic.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) predicted that VC-funded companies in Africa would come back stronger than ever and already, all indications suggest a healthy recovery. Estimates point to nearly $7 billion in venture-backed deals throughout the continent with $500 million dollars invested in ESG products by the end of the year. This massive rebound is thanks-in no small part-to the dedication of local investors and thought leaders like Paul Kavuma.

As the inaugural recipient of the Emerging Markets Institute Cañizares Alumni Award, Kavuma embodies the values of a true visionary, honored for his leadership, successful career, and contribution to human development in emerging markets. While, like many, he sees the potential surrounding emerging markets in Africa, what differentiates Kavuma is his deep understanding of what’s actually required to unlock it-even in the midst of unprecedented challenges.

“Why do we need business leaders?” asked Emerging Markets Institute board member Roberto Cañizares, MBA ’74, at Kavuma’s award presentation ceremony, held in November at the Emerging Markets Institute Conference 2022: Reinventing Global Value Chains. “Leaders are the engines of human progress,” said Cañizares. “Improvement in these countries wouldn’t have happened without leaders. But even beyond that, you need leaders who can make meaning out of chaos.”

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