TemiTope Lawani: The MIT/Havard Grad Leading Africa's Largest Private Equity Firm
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African CEOs - June 7, 2023

TemiTope Lawani: The MIT/Havard Grad Leading Africa’s Largest Private Equity Firm

Co-founder and Managing Partner of Helios Investment Partners, a UK-based private investment group, Temitope Lawani is a notable figure in the world of finance and private equity. Equipped with an educational background from two of the world’s most prestigious institutions, MIT and Harvard, Lawani’s expertise and leadership help him pilot Africa’s largest private equity firm to the top. 

As an African-focused private equity investor, Lawani is shaping Africa’s economic landscape by investing in diverse sectors and driving sustainable growth across the continent. A notable example will be the recently completed sale of Solevo, a leading African distribution platform for speciality chemicals to a group of investors. 

Before the sale, Temitope’s Helios worked with Solevo to execute a value-creation strategy that resulted in strong financial, social, and environmental performance. The successful sale of Solevo spotlights Helios’ investment strategy of acquiring and building market-leading, diversified platform companies operating in the core economic sectors of key African countries. 

Lawani’s Helios stake in two data centres in Kenya, Morocco

Towards the end of last year, Helios led by Lawani signed agreements to purchase controlling holdings in two data centres in Kenya and Morocco on behalf of funds it advises. 

The move emphasized Helios’ large-scale investments in North and East African data centres. The facilities, Maroc Data Center and IXAfrica serve as a crucial building component in a bigger Helios’ hyper-scale data centre platform in the region. Speaking about the development, Helios stated that the next phase of Africa’s telecommunications transformation offers new and significant opportunities in digital infrastructure.

Lawani’s multicultural background

Considering Lawani’s success in the private-equity firm one would naturally want to look at his background and what shaped his current perspective. Lawani grew up in an environment that had close to 100 nationalities. This environment made it easy for him to comfortably blend with people from diverse tribes. He said, “In the five houses surrounding my home, my neighbours next door were people from Taiwan, Israel, Korea, Jamaica, and Sierra Leone and so I grew up in an extremely multicultural environment and I was always from the get-go always comfortable with people from basically anywhere.”

How Lawani established Helios 

Lawani who received a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a law degree from Harvard Law School and an MBA from Harvard Business School began his career by working with TPG Capital. He established Helios in 2004 as one fo the first private equity funds to invest in Africa. To secure his first-time fund, Lawani had to rely on his networks. According to him, the fundraising consisted of one-third of hedge funds, one-third of development finance institutions and one-third of high net-worth individuals and family offices.

His Tower business and challenges in Africa

Helios Towers helped finance the building of telecom infrastructure throughout Africa. Lawani once revealed that Helios focused on building mobile operating licenses in Nigeria by seeking to buy existing towers from MTN (an African mobile telecom company). Lawani also hinted that the difference between telecom infrastructure in the U.S. versus that in Africa was U.S. more or less had infrastructure for landline penetration. 

For Africa, he said, “landline penetration was less than 1% before the first telecom tower mobile operator license was issued in 2003.” While Telephony in the U.S. is simple, Africa’s energy structure makes operations much different. 

Lawani’s aspirations to own Chelsea F.C

The Nigerian Multi-millionaire was once asked if onlookers were going to find he is the Next owner of Chelsea. He said, “Yeah, you might call that strategy drift, but you know, hey, if all that means is that they won’t invest with me again, I’ll take the risk.” Commenting on the performance of the club, Lawani noted that the brand is a pretty strong one.”

With over 25 years of principal investment experience, Lawani serves on the Boards of Directors of Helios Towers, Vivo Energy, Axxela, ZOLA Electric, OVH Energy and Mall for Africa.

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