One of the largest East African investment companies to grow assets from US$ 300mn to 1.2bn by 2019

Fred Murimi, Director of Centum Capital talks about Centum, one of the leading and largest investment companies in East Africa.

Fred Murimi, Director of Centum Capital talks about Centum, one of the leading and largest investment companies in East Africa.

What does Centum bring to the market?

Centum is a very unique company in that we create investment opportunities for other investors. We take the early stage risks of putting opportunities together, turning them into bankable projects and then bringing other investors into the opportunities we have created. If you look at it from an investor’s perspective that has a pool of capital when he comes to Africa, there are few investment opportunities that are of scale and quality. If investors are looking to invest or acquire a bank, there are few viable opportunities available. If they want to invest in the power sector there are not many power opportunities that investors can put their capital into. The constraint is really not on the capital side but on the supply side. How many people or companies are actively putting together investment opportunities? Do they do a package that they give investors access to? That is what makes Centum unique, because that is our business model. We take that early risk and create the opportunities for investors. There are not that many players in that space and there are many private equity players and strategic investors who are looking for opportunities.

How do you overcome the fact that international companies tend to stick to companies they know?

For us, it is about creating partnerships. In everything we do it is always about giving access to other investors. Some of those investors are strategic investors, some are private equity and some are funds that are looking for opportunities and what we provide is the access to the investments. It is through partnerships with such investors that we then have access to an even wider pool of investors. One fund could possibly have thousands of investors behind it. We are not looking to compete with those investors. We want to supply them with opportunities that they may not have been able to get into otherwise.

Where do you see your company in 5 years time?

We have our Centum 3.0 strategy that covers 2014-2019. In that strategy, we will look to grow our assets from 300 million dollars in 2014 to 1.2 billion dollars in 2019. The way we will achieve this is through all the opportunities we are creating across different sectors. I see us managing our assets of 1.2 billion dollars across 7 sectors in the Kenyan economy. I see us having attracted significant sums of direct foreign investments into Kenya and the East African region by virtue of the opportunities we have created. I see us being a significant partner to the governments in the region because the sectors we are creating investment opportunities in are important sectors of the economy and the kind of investments we are making are investments of impact. For instance, in real estate, we are creating urban centres for cities across East Africa. One of our latest real estate projects is in Mombasa on the coast of Kenya. It’s a 10 000 acre parcel of land where we are looking to provide the entire infrastructure to support growth of an industrial city. That is significant for Kenya as well as the company and there will be many jobs created out of that opportunity and new products that might not have to be imported anymore.

What about your social responsibilities?

In our core business of creating investment opportunities, we look to be socially responsible in each of them. In the real estate project Two Rivers Mall in Nairobi, we are looking to develop a green space. Part of our social responsibility is also the amount of jobs we have created on this project, which is approximately 2000. In the project in Mombasa, we are looking to work with the community. We want to empower them with skills and then the community will be in the position to take up some of the job opportunities that will become available. In each of our investments, we always keep social responsibility in mind. In power, we are working with the local community to green the area around the project. We have actually given jobs to some of the youth to buy trees and we will buy trees from them. We hope to teach them skills that will enable them to go into business. Two years ago, we set up the Centum Foundation. The Foundation is about supporting entrepreneurs and particularly young entrepreneurs. The program involves providing young entrepreneurs with skills, mentoring them and in some cases providing them with seed funding for their different projects. To date, we have funded about 7 different organizations. These are young people who have not been able to get access to funding, mentors or skills. We hope to have an impact with these entrepreneurs and we hope to make the Foundation even bigger.

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