Unlocking Value Through Family Offices in Africa
My family name, Mhlanga is associated with diamonds and construction with my uncle, Robert having owned the largest diamond mine in Zimbabwe the third largest in Africa, Mbada Diamonds and my father, Samuel having owned one of the largest construction aggregate supplies businesses in Zimbabwe Construction Land Sand, White Sands and Mira Construction. My great grandfather earned a reputation as shrewed businessman having been a leading miller in his hometown back in the days when black people in Zimbabwe were only employees to whites. I chose however, to distance myself entirely from my family's business interests, not always agreeing on the basis of values but even though I went to Law School, entrepreneurship took my focus off Law practice.
I left my family but I took the lessons on business; of building through hard work and strategic investments at the right time amongst other things. My Family Office is focused on Sustainable Development which includes a focus on impact investing in Agribusiness and other industries and the empowerment of women in the economy towards building a stronger and more sustainable economy in Africa.
Family Offices and in effect, family wealth in Africa has the potential to change the face of the continent. For too long family wealth everywhere around the world has been too closely associated with greed and entitlement and for many whilst you can't help being born into the family you were born to, at the point where you have the ability to make your own decisions, complacency has set in. There can be no further excuses for the state in which much of Africa's economies find themselves in and there can be no excuse for extreme poverty where so much wealth abounds. I believe wealth is a privilege and above all having wealth places a real duty on the one who has been given the wealth, as custodian. Wealth, particularly family wealth which is passed down through the generations is not availed because one is more deserving than any other in the world to be blessed with such a gift but rather, this presents an opportunity for heirs to create an atmosphere around them for the continued growth of their own wealth and for the social and economic development of the communities in which they operate.
In Africa, its time that wealthy families begin to consider how best their wealth can make more impact in order to improve their environment. With this vision, my Family Office helps families in Africa to adopt strategies for impact investing which achieve returns as well as help to create sustainable impact. I encourage and assit in the set up of Single Family Office structures for other wealthy families as a way to ensure that they take direct responsibility for the growth and sustainability of their own wealth and on how they want future generations to preserve their family name. I do not believe families should take a backseat when it comes to the management of their wealth and the Single Family Office structure serves as the best way to employee experts internally who will best align to your personal wealth and investment management vision.
Whilst a Single Family Office Structure is expensive, since one is essentially running the family's wealth and investment mangement as a seperate business, its still a vision worth having from the onset and perhaps starting with an embedded Family Office which runs within the structures of the Family's core business.
I have also found the potential for African families to work together as a way of accelerating regional integration and through my Family Office, I actively assist African Families and International Family Offices looking to invest in Africa to find strategic partners who share similar family values.
Africa abounds with opportunities and as Africa continues to take a more visible position on the world stage, the role of African Family Offices will become more prevelant. The challenge remains that of educating African families on how to best set up formal Family Office structures to ensure that their wealth does not simply pass with their passing but that it is rather given the structure it needs to create a lasting legacy for the Founder and family for future generations.