Tokunboh Ishmael is co-founder and managing director of Alitheia Capital, an investment management and advisory firm focused on channelling private equity into small businesses and helping them grow into medium scale businesses. But this is not news. The not-so-obvious part of her profile is that she was a panellist on the TV show, Dragons Den Nigeria, and has a name that rings more than one bell in Africa’s investment circle.
Tokunboh is an alumnus of the Obafemi Awolowo University where she bagged a first degree in Computer Science and Economics in 1988. She got her MSC in Advanced Computing Methods in 1991. In 1996, she participated in an International Management Program at the NYU Stern School of Business and got an MBA in Business. She also got an MBA in Finance and Strategy from the London Business School in 1997.
Venturing into investments
She started her career in Amerada Hess, CitiBank, BSG Consulting and spent 12 years there as a Business Analyst. She also worked as an investment banker with Salomon Smith Barney for about 3 years and executed over $5.5 billion of investment banking transactions like mergers and acquisitions (M&A), Capital raising and initial public offerings (IPOs).
Ismael became an investment principal at Sussex Place Ventures in 2001, and two years after, joined Aureos Capital (now Abraaj) as Country Partner. Here, she successfully raised capital to complete the first Aureos West Africa Fund, and sourced private equity investments.
From August 2005 to 2007, she was Managing Director of Avante Capital Ltd. One of the highlights of her time as Managing Director of Avante Capital Ltd was advising on the acquisition and financing of a government-owned refinery, as well as leading the first secondary listing of a Nigerian company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Her over two decades of experience also includes advising on mergers and acquisition mandates valuing over US$5 billion across the financial, health, oil, gas, technology and media sectors in the US, UK and Africa. She has advised on the development of financial markets at the federal and state levels in Nigeria’s public and private sectors.
Starting Alitheia Capital
She co-founded Alitheia IDF to scale investments into women-led SMEs across Sub-Saharan Africa. This she said, became necessary when she observed that women-led businesses hardly came seeking for funds for several reasons.
“Africa can hardly think about getting developed if we are not looking for a way to develop our female assets. Women are usually the decision-makers and we should be concerned about empowering them. This drive is not just for women-led businesses, but also businesses targeting women,” she said in an interview.
In 2013 she became a Yale World Fellow. She now serves on a number of boards including First City Monument Bank (FCMB) as Non-Executive Director, Pagatech, and Chairs the board of the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA.)
For Tokunboh, the ideal is a mix of responsible investing, economic impact and social responsibility.
“For us, it’s saying we do want to make money. We do want to have financial returns. But we also want more. We want to be able to have an impact on people’s lives, whether that is from a social perspective, or even from an environmental perspective. When we invest in financial institutions, we are looking for those institutions to be able to serve the base of the pyramid better – provide them with working capital or whatever it is they need or the savings products,” she explained.
As an impact investor, Tokunboh helps institutions, development organisations and corporates to invest and build sustainable SME growth businesses across attractive, consumer-led sectors including Agribusiness, Financial Services, Healthcare & Pharma, Infrastructure, Transport, Retail and Tech.
Tokunboh described being on the Dragon’s Den Nigeria as a highly gratifying experience and a form of providing business education for the youths and upcoming entrepreneurs.