Out of Africa: CEO Middle East interviews Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais

Articles 13 February 2018

Quantum Global Group Founder Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais talks filmmaking, management styles and why Africa is the perfect market for Middle Eastern investors.

Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais is an entrepreneur and innovation specialist with a deep interest in African socio-economic development. In 2007, he founded Quantum Global Group, an international group of companies focussed on African development, particularly in the fields of corporate finance advisory, asset and private wealth management, real estate and investment consulting.

Aside from his work, Bastos de Morais is a certified culture vulture, with wide-ranging interests that span literature, music, art, science, community service and film. In fact, he’s such a movie buff that he sponsored the Dubai International Film Festival. We sit down with him while he is in town for an in-depth chat about his burgeoning business. Here are the excerpts:

What makes you tick as a CEO?

I have always combined my instincts as an entrepreneur with a passion for innovation, and a deep interest in African development. I am proud of my work at Quantum Global because we are able to invest in projects that are bankable, have a high success rate and aim to have a strong impact on the economic development that will improve the lives of Africans by creating jobs and making the economy perform better. At the same time I am also passionate about the grass-roots approach to development.

Therefore, my ideology for developing African innovation ecosystems is based on an inclusive model that will drive needs-based innovation and bring opportunities to these segments of African society. I believe in an innovation hub model that allows grassroots innovation to evolve in an environment where collaborative knowledge, intellectual know how, mentorship and creative exchange are accessible in a linear manner.

This is why I set up the African Innovation Foundation, which rewards innovators with $185,000 every year to foster the African innovation spirit and the Fabrica de Sabao, a warehouse in a Luanda slum which is today a thriving community centre.

Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world. Sixty per cent of its population is under the age of 24. This youth bulge creates an important opportunity for sustainable development in Africa. These youth segments will have specific needs different from developed or first world nations. Therefore, there is an urgent need to invest in local innovation ecosystems which respond to these real needs.

You sponsored the Dubai International Film Festival. How does this fit in with your vision?

I have always been committed to promoting youth, entrepreneurship, innovation and cultural awakening in all the markets where I operate. As we are seeking to build a presence in Dubai, it is natural for me to invest in film, and in particular local Arab and Emirati film making through the Muhr Award.

Film is such a powerful tool for cultural expression and exchange, so it is interesting to me that indigenous film making is growing so strongly, both in the Arab world and in Africa, as in Nollywood for example. I believe that an active film making culture is a sign of a healthy and progressive society where the young, bold and creative people are able to claim their place at the table and play a role in shaping the future.

Not only that, but it is a great way to put young people to work. Nollywood still has some growing pains, but nonetheless generates more than $600 million in revenues annually and employs a million people. Dubai today is ranked the top place to live in the Arab world by Arab youth, and is therefore the natural hub for the creative industries, and film making in particular. I am delighted to support this trend.

How would you describe your personal management style?

I guess you could say that I’m driven to create. I’ve always been that way, pushing the envelope, defying norms and testing new ways to do things better and faster. In a way, the passion for innovation is in my blood. My grandfather invented the light feature in watches way back when Swiss-watch making was still a very traditional industry. I must have inherited some of his traits because I am drawn to disruptive ideas that shift mindsets and influence positive change.

I had to pay for my university on my own, and while at university I created a company called M&A Partners, even though there was actually only one employee – myself! That company allowed me to find out about different companies in Switzerland. Having learnt the basics from a very early age, I tend to adopt a very open approach in doing business. I would say being creative, being open towards problems and not panicking when things don’t turn out as expected are some of the traits of my management style.

Could you give us more details about Quantum Global and your investments in different sectors?

For a decade, Quantum Global Group has focused on African development, particularly in the fields of corporate finance advisory, asset management, real estate and investment consulting. Our aim is to be internationally recognised as the partner of choice for investment across Africa. The Group’s investment strategy can be broadly defined in the three main pillars.

Firstly there’s African Money in World Markets. Our active portfolio asset management focuses on liquid assets with its experts, while our Private Equity team invests in Worldwide Real Estate Assets.

Our second strategic pillar is focussing on our sector oriented African funds. We invest into African markets for long-term growth and development. The funds are based in Africa to be closer to investment opportunities on the continent. In parallel we are also investing into liquid instruments with African Fixed Income and Equities.

Our third strategic pillar targets to give global investors the option to participate in the African investment opportunities we develop. Therefore African Markets will gain additional momentum and further job and wealth generation will be generated together with investment returns.

We have approximately $8 billion of assets under management. We strive to build on our reputation as a trusted and recognised partner for investment management, private equity and research across Africa. On the private equity front, the Group has established seven dedicated investment funds that will target high growth industries such as agriculture, healthcare, timber, mining, hospitality, infrastructure and mezzanine investments. The funds will promote regional growth by developing a portfolio of assets.

What do the MENA region and UAE mean for your business?

The UAE is a gateway for investments into Africa, and also a hub for African businesses seeking to expand internationally. It is emerging as a hub for Quantum Global, thanks to its advanced financial sector, its close links to Africa and its proximity to Europe.

Do you have; or are you planning to have, presence in the region or in UAE? If so where and when?

We are expecting soon to receive a license for a representative office of Quantum Global in Dubai International Financial Centre. This is our first step into the region and we expect our presence to grow in line with the growth of our investments in Africa.

What role could Dubai and the UAE play as a gateway to Africa?

There is a long tradition of Gulf investments in Africa, from telecoms and airlines to natural resources and agriculture. Dubai has made significant efforts to make Africans feel welcome in the city, and regularly attracts African heads of state and business delegations to its conferences.

We regard Dubai as a gateway for investment in Africa, and we plan to use Dubai as a base to open our unique investment opportunities to Gulf investors.

Where are we likely to see an expansion of private equity investment?

Africa is one of the most rewarding markets to invest in due to its growth potential and young population. African governments are placing more emphasis on diversifying away from hydrocarbons and natural resources, which is stimulating investment in other sectors. At the same time, the recent recovery in commodity prices will boost investor confidence in oil producers such as Angola and Nigeria. One of the most exciting developments has been the growth of public private partnerships, where states are attracting private equity into infrastructure projects, which are a great fit for long term investors such as Quantum Global.

African and foreign investors can take advantage of widespread opportunities to support significant government investments in priority target industries, including hospitality, technology, infrastructure, timber and healthcare. These are the direct recipients of government funding and as such are a clear priority. They offer premium long-terms gains for investors who wish to take a long-term view and want a more meaningful stake in Africa’s future.

Source: CEO Middle East