For me, leadership is really about being a pioneer and pushing the boundaries in your field of interest, because that serves as an example to others. The formula to success is taking risks. You cannot put yourself in a position to get the desired results if you do not take that first risk. I love my career as an investor; every time we invest in a company or an entrepreneur, we are taking risks. You cannot be successful if you have not taken risks.
Brian Waweru ’09 from Kenya is a Private Equity Specialist at Investec Asset Management (Ninety-One), managing over $450million in assets across Africa. With a passion for developing entrepreneurs and supporting the growth of critical industries in Africa, Brian’s professional journey has taken him through industry giants like Standard Chartered Private Equity, JP Morgan and The Blackstone Group. A graduate of the prestigious Wharton Business School, Brian currently sits on the Board of Trustees of African Leadership Academy.
Brian grew up Nairobi, Kenya, and discovered two of his passions through his close relationship with his mother. After the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya, Brian’s mother and her friends were visiting a children’s orphanage and school. His mother was immediately concerned about the lack of extracurricular activities available to the students and brought Brian along to volunteer by playing basketball with the students. These social basketball games developed into a full-fledged bi-annual fundraiser to support the orphanage. Earlier, Brian’s mother had started her own business running an interior design outfit; observing her work as a female entrepreneur and watching her talk about sales, customers, production and manufacturing left an indelible mark on Brian. Today, his early interest in business has evolved into his full-time professional career as a private equity investor, and he maintains a strong passion for youth development through sports.
Discovering Finance at ALA
Although Brian’s only prior exposure to the world of business was helping his mother manage her small business, it was at African Leadership Academy that he developed a true affinity for Finance and Economics. In his first year at ALA, Brian signed up for the A-level course in Economics, taught by Mr. Divine Kangami (now Dr. Kangami) who was also his advisor. Despite having no prior knowledge of Economics, Brian was completely fascinated by topics such as fiscal and monetary policy. He also immersed himself in the Student Enterprise Program at ALA, helping to manage ALA’s first student-run bank, Gigavault. These experience demonstrated to Brian that not only did he enjoy Finance, he actually had a natural talent for it. By the time of his graduation from ALA in 2011, he had emerged as the top student in Economics in South Africa on the A-level examinations.
Pivot to Private Equity
Through support from ALA’s University Guidance counselors, Brian was admitted to the prestigious Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with a double major in International Studies (cum laude) and Economics with a finance concentration (cum laude) as well as a minor in French. With the support of ALA’s Africa Careers Network, he accessed numerous impressive internships including stints at Standard Chartered Bank’s Private Equity team and JP Morgan, while in college. After graduating, Brian spent 3 years at Blackstone’s Private Equity Group in New York on a team managing $100 billion dollars focusing on US buyout transactions. His experience at Blackstone represented a fast-track pivot into a full-time career in Private Equity, being one of only three analysts to join the team that year, and becoming an investor straight out of college. In 2018, Brian took a position as an Investment Specialist at Investec Asset Management, helping to invest $450 million dollars across Africa in various sectors. After two years with Investec, Brian has recently accepted a position to work for RMB Ventures in Johannesburg.
Pursuing Youth Development through Sports
During his time at ALA, Brian discovered a renewed passion for basketball as a tool for development. After attending an Executive Seminar with a visiting senior Executive from the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and securing a subsequent connection to the incoming Vice President of the NBA in Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall, Brian organized a basketball tournament at the ALA campus sponsored by the NBA with participating schools from around Johannesburg. The morning of the tournament featured different seminars on leadership tailored for the referees, coaches, captains, and players, while the afternoon saw the teams compete in a vibrant basketball tournament. Brian would go on to volunteer with Amadou Fall’s non-profit organization, SEED (Sports for Economic and Educational Development) the largest basketball non-profit organization on the continent during his semester abroad in Dakar, Senegal, and subsequently as a Board Member, helping to organize finances and shape discussions around expansion.
Serving on ALA’s Board of Trustees
After moving back to South Africa in 2018, Brian learned that there was a seat open on the ALA Board of Trustees, designated for an alumni representative. In 2019, Brian was selected to join the Board, and he currently sits on the Investment and Building & Grounds committees. This platform provides Brian with the opportunity to channel his professional experiences into supporting ALA in conversations around sustainability.
Vision for the Future
Brian is determined to continue his work of helping Africa present itself as a prime investment destination to investors across the world. Historically, Africa has been viewed as a risky environment for investors; through his work, Brian aims to shift this perspective and play a role in channeling investments into critical sectors, like infrastructure, renewable energy, private education, and consumer businesses. He also hopes to continue to grow his passion project using basketball as a tool for development through non-profit work, while also attempting to understand the business opportunities for sports on the continent.