We caught up with Dr Namukale Chintu, an alumna of our PhD programme (2009). Namukale is founder of Frontier Market Consultants and a Non-Executive Director on the boards of Invesco Asset Management and Invesco UK.
During her time at Cambridge Judge, Namukale co-founded the Cambridge African Business Network (CABN), whose mission it is to stimulate a robust dialogue about business, investment and entrepreneurship in Africa, incorporating both practitioner and academic perspectives.
What motivated you to found CABN, and what was its impact beyond Cambridge Judge?
Several leading business schools already had student-led Africa business conferences and I, along with other students from the University, thought it important that there was something similar at Cambridge Judge. We believed that increasing awareness and building networks between Cambridge and the broader Africa-focused business community would result in increased private sector-led development and economic growth on the Continent.
CABN’s impact has been felt in both expected and unexpected ways. It was established to foster dialogue about investment in Africa with a view to narrowing the gap between real and perceived risks and returns of investment on the Continent. Providing such a platform at one of the best universities in the world led to opportunities for collaboration, both across and outside the University of Cambridge. A positive externality of this was the increased interest of African students in pursuing postgraduate programmes at Cambridge, and the establishment of lasting relationships amongst CABN members that continue to this day.
At Cambridge Judge, you did a PhD in International Business. How has this influenced your career journey?
My PhD in International Business at the University of Cambridge focused on investing in Africa and the drivers of returns using different sources of capital, ranging from public to private equity, family businesses and state-owned enterprises. This was a continuation of my postgraduate studies in Financial Economics at the University of Oxford. Over time, and due to the findings of my research, I increasingly appreciated the idea that wealth creation should replace aid in economic growth and development – and I embraced this in all the financial services roles I subsequently took on, including capital markets, institutional asset management and wealth management for African institutional investors and family offices.
You have spent some time in the private wealth area focusing on Africa. In your opinion, what are the trends and key developments in that area?
Africa has seen a growth in high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) over the last 20 years. According to last year’s Capgemini World Wealth Report, African HNWIs have a combined wealth of USD 1.8 trillion or 2.2% of global HNWI wealth. This is a positive trajectory for Africa’s growth story, in which more and more Africans are building wealth on the back of Africa’s potential, including the demographic dividend, technology penetration and natural resources. The COVID pandemic brought headwinds to this progress for obvious reasons, but this presents opportunities for the economies to become more self-reliant and build more domestic-led wealth.
Obviously, this wealth is not evenly distributed across and within countries. Some countries already have multigenerational businesses and have become well established, and families have set up sophisticated structures and family offices to manage their affairs. In other countries, we’re beginning to see first-generation wealth that has started to consider having an investment portfolio, as well as the building blocks of a family office, including family governance, succession planning and estate planning, and setting up trusts. So it’s a bit of mixed bag.
Apart from the economic landscape, the regulatory landscape also plays an important role in investment strategies. Capital controls on individuals and local asset managers have served well in ensuring investments are made locally, but countries with underdeveloped capital markets inadvertently impose limited portfolio diversification on investors. Nevertheless, retail investors, depending on their risk profile, will still think about wealth preservation, diversification and growth. Institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance, must continue to match their current assets and future liabilities.
What issues are at the forefront of your concerns? To what extent does ESG factor into your thinking?
ESG has evolved from being a fad and subset of corporate social responsibility to permeating the very core of individuals and businesses. It has evolved from being a cost item to a revenue item and can only be ignored at one’s peril. So it’s a topic that I have to address in all my work with entrepreneurs, the boards on which I sit and in my not-for-profit work.
The trouble is, despite permeating our lives, ESG means different things to different people and so, while we are all in agreement about the concept, we are still grappling with translating the spirit of the law and the letter of the law. But that’s OK, provided we are moving in the right direction. For example, whilst electric cars are greener than petrol cars, they are also far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean we don’t promote their use altogether.
Currently, the COP27 agenda is all the buzz, and investors and asset managers must think strategically about how they choose to engage. A good example of this is the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative. This is an international group of asset managers who have committed to supporting the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions. So, the big question is: do you just buy carbon credits to offset, which is the fastest way out, or do you go a step further by actually greening your portfolio?
What advice would you give to students following in your footsteps?
I would give two main pieces of advice. First, focus on doing your best at what’s within your control. Don’t stress about what you cannot control. This is the problem-solving principle that I’ve applied throughout my work and how I see the world. The second thing I would say is that it’s all about networking. The people you meet at business school will become some of your closest friends, confidantes and business associates. Make the most of the opportunity to enjoy Cambridge and Cambridge Judge Business School.