Building the Entrepreneurial Base in Africa: J. Eric Wright, Chairman, Africa Venture Partners

J. Eric Wright was headed for Wall Street until he decided to take a year off in Africa. That short jaunt has stretched into nearly three decades on the continent — and led him to his life’s work.

Today, Wright is chairman of Africa Venture Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm based in South Africa, and director at the Picasso Group, a private investment and project development firm in the U.A.E. focused on energy, agriculture and real estate ventures in emerging markets. [email protected] spoke with Wright about the challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in Africa.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

[email protected]: In recent years, Africa seems to be having this upsurge of entrepreneurial energy. From your perspective, what are some of the biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs in Africa today and why?

J. Eric Wright: I think the biggest opportunity for entrepreneurs is in the consumer space. The past 20 years or so, there was a heavy investment in infrastructure that’s allowed entrepreneurs to emerge and not require as much capital to build out infrastructure, which really was difficult for entrepreneurs to participate in.

Now that a lot of that infrastructure has been built, particularly in the communications space, a number of ventures are now coming online and many MBAs are coming back home as a first choice of employment. In previous years, their first choice was to go to London or New York and work for Bain or McKinsey or a big bank. Now they’re looking at starting their own businesses back home, many of which are in the consumer space.

Read more: Building the Entrepreneurial Base in Africa – [email protected]