Could you please introduce your organisation briefly?
As the name suggests, the Africa Pension Funds Network (APFN) is a network of African pension funds and their industry associations. APFN was inaugurated in the margins of the MFW4A Partnership Forum in Dakar, Senegal in June 2014. Our membership currently includes industry associations and pension funds from Botswana, East Africa (covering Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia), Namibia, Nigeria, and South Africa, with more countries expected to join in the coming months.
The network's objectives include to:
- Foster co-operation and exchange of best practices amongst African pension funds, with a particular focus on investment matters;
- Harness knowledge resources and expertise from within and outside the continent to support the development of the industry;
- Facilitate capacity-building initiatives to enhance the skills of professional staff;
- Catalyse financial and technical assistance to support the development of the pensions industry; and
- Build and maintain strategic relationships with relevant African and international stakeholder groups.
What are your principal achievements and what are your lessons learned?
APFN is less than a year old, so we are still very young. However, in that time we have met with African pension regulators to present the network and explore the potential for collaboration, and collaborated on the recent MFW4A publication "Pension Funds and Private Equity: Unlocking Africa's Potential". We have also discussed the role of pension funds in long-term investment in Africa at selected conferences. Our main focus, however, is currently on building and consolidating our membership, preparing our charter and other internal processes and regulations. I would say the key challenge so far has been resources to keep the momentum going. We are receiving much-needed support from the MFW4A Secretariat, but we could always do with more, and it is difficult to try to build something like this in addition to our day jobs.
Could you explain certain challenges or difficulties the APFN is faced with?
I referred to the question of resources earlier. This is key for us - we are currently functioning as one of MFW4A's working groups, but our ultimate ambition is to become an independent, self-financing pan-African industry association. Building the credibility to do that takes time and resources, and whilst we appreciate MFW4A's support, without which we would not exist, we need much more. Ideally, a full-time staff to support APFN would be great, but we know that MFW4A has several demands, so we are looking into other options as well. Another issue is keeping momentum, which again is linked to the resource issue. Everyone involved in the network has a day job and at a senior level, so things often take longer than we would like simply because people are busy.
How can a partnership with MFW4A support the APFN actions?
MFW4A has and continues to be very supportive - they have supported all our activities to date and continue to do so. Beyond funding, they have also introduced us to potential partners like the UK's CDC plc, and were instrumental in arranging our meeting with the pension supervisors. We hope we can count on MFW4A's continued support going forward - the challenge for us is to leverage to build the partnerships we need to become self-sufficient within the three-year timeframe we have set ourselves.
Dave Uduanu currently serves as the Chair of the Africa Pension Funds Network and is also Managing Director of Pensions Alliance Limited.