By Ajong Mbapndah L
For Lindi Gillespie, connecting the right people to opportunities in the market place and creating viable and strategic partnerships is her passion. Leveraging her vast networks and experience garnered over a twenty year period in diverse marketing and business roles, Lindi Gillespie founded Atlas Africa, an investment and brokerage company with operational base from South Africa. The firm offers clients the opportunity to expand business prospects on a broad range of sectors across Africa and on the global stage.
As CEO of Atlas Africa, Lindi, a Graduate of the University of Cape Town has surrounded herself with a solid team of talented associates who pride themselves in providing tailor made investment brokerage services and the delivery of first class returns to their clients.
“We do our best to understand our client’s business needs and long term plans when putting together a marketing strategy for bringing their services and products into the African markets,” says Lindi, who was recently ranked amongst Africa’s top 25 Women in Leadership by Amazon Watch Magazine.
With the goal of building long term professional relationships based on honesty, integrity, and sustainable revenue generation, Atlas Africa has steadily grown its business portfolio across Africa and beyond. In addition to South Africa and the SADC sub region, Atlas has excelled in West and East Africa, and Lindi says there are a growing number of hotel deals going through in the Maldives and Europe.
“Our clients stick with us because we work hard for them and always do our very best to find the best solutions to their needs by using our International network,” says Lindi as she expresses the ambition to further grow and sustain the strong reputation of Atlas Africa when it comes to investing in the continent.
Ms Gillespie, thanks so much for accepting to grant this interview , you are CEO of Atlas Africa Group, could you start by introducing the Group for us, what does it do, and when was it created?
Atlas Africa Group was formed in December 2015 when I attended the Global African Investment Summit in London. The Atlas Africa Group finds financing for renewable energy projects internationally; but predominantly in Africa. I raise these funds from individual investors; pensions fund; renewable energy funds and private equity funds. We also focus on Projects that are property related. We are very involved in development of hotels and also the buying and selling of hotels in Africa and its surrounding islands. Other sectors of the economies in Africa are covered as well.
What motivated you to create the Group, what skill set did you have, may we also have an idea of the staff strength and profile of those who make up the Group?
The motivation to start the Group was the dire need for infrastructure development; electricity; urbanisation development and especially agriculture to feed the people of Africa. Sustainability in Africa was my core motivation – to assist with this process. My skills are mainly in marketing and in introducing people where synchronicity exists to make things happen around the continent. For example I work closely with the Swiss who have foundations to help the poor and also various funds that have budgets to help the underprivileged people in our communities. The kind of people I choose to work with are professionals who are experts in all the fields that I can’t fill! Such as accounting and office administration. I prefer face to face contact with clients; travelling for work related projects and marketing our pipeline of projects.
Let’s talk about the success stories, are there concrete examples of successful projects that have been carried out by the Atlas Group? Potential clients may be interested in knowing something about the track record of Atlas
Our success stories are mainly in renewable energy and infrastructure development. At the moment deals are being processed in the Ivory Coast and Mali. These deals are private and public projects. We also have a number of hotel deals going through in the Maldives and Europe. These deals involve International hotel brands and private equity firms. We are processing low cost housing projects in two areas of Namibia where building of houses will begin within the next few weeks.
For people interested in using the services of Atlas, what do they need to do and what additional guarantees does the Group have to assure clients of positive results?
For positive result with new clients, it is a question of what stage the project is based. For instance we have investors of Greenfield renewable energy projects but projects with all licences and a PPA is where most of the clients invest. When it comes to PPPs, countries that offer sovereign guarantees or some form of guarantees make the project more attractive to investors. For projects needing funds Atlas Africa is always open to consider these projects.
What other parts of Africa is the Group operating in besides South Africa where it is based?
Atlas Africa focuses mainly on countries of good governance. We focus on areas where is safe for workforce to complete projects. Our presence is mainly in the SADC region and various countries in East and West Africa.
How will you describe the business climate first in South Africa and on other parts of the continent where you do business?
With the downgrading of South Africa’s economic sector; there are challenges in all parts of the economy including private and public business. I focus most of Atlas Africa Group’s growth outside of South Africa. I have a number of property interests however in South Africa. Our press in South Africa is bullish which helps with addressing the corruption in the country. The corruption has affected growth in all areas of the economy and many people are taking their money out of the country; emigrating or disinvesting.
Lindi Gillespie was recently profiled as one of Africa’s Top 25 Women in Leadership by Amazon Watch Magazine, what did this mean for you?
Being chosen as one of the 25 most influential women in Africa was a huge achievement for me. It showed that the work I do in Africa counts and that I have a voice on the continent. I would like to become more involved with positive movements and change.
To young Africans especially the women who see in you a role model, and will want to emulate your example, what are some secrets of success that you have for them?
The secret of success for young women is to have a specific focus. The best choice is to align yourself with positive people who will support your ideas and your business growth. If you are an entrepreneur like myself ,you need to expect difficulties and challenges. This will keep you up at night but you need faith to keep going. So many deals fall through but it’s all part of being in the game of business. Try and secure finance so that you can get through the hard times when deals are taking years to come through!!
We end with a last word on the future of the Atlas Group, what next after growing it to where it is, any big plans in the years ahead to grow and improve the client base?
Our big plans and ambitions are to grow and sustain our strong reputation when it comes to investing in Africa. Our clients stick with us because we work hard for them and always do our very best to find the best solutions to their needs by using our International network.