Aureos flies the flag in Africa

Politicians haven’t always been the best of friends to private equity, but UK Prime Minister David Cameron clearly isn’t totally blind to the industry’s benefits: he’s made emerging markets specialist Aureos a founding partner of a high-profile new trade initiative. ‘Trade Out of Poverty’ aims to improve the access of Least Developed and Low Income Countries to international trade via the removal of trade barriers, the simplification of trade rules and investment in infrastructure links – and the Prime Minister wants Aureos to play a key role.

This makes sense: Aureos, which was part of the PM’s recent trade mission to Africa, has to date invested about $1.3bn in small- and medium-sized businesses in more than 50 emerging economies. And while ‘trade not aid’ is very much the order of the day in political and diplomatic circles – this initiative has already received backing from luminaries like Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, and Sir Bob Geldof – the Government will need some help turning this catchy soundbite into effective policy (politicians arguably being better at the former than the latter).

As Aureos chief exec Sev Vettivetpillai (who’s joining the charity’s Advisory Council) points out, his firm has “first-hand experience of the challenges companies in developing markets face”, and also knows how “to help our investee companies to grow and develop international connections”. But he also accepts that “for large scale transformation, more must be done on a national and international level”. Hence the need for an initiative like this, with a bit of political heft behind it. And with luck, the involvement of Aureos might also persuade a few more policy-makers that private equity can be a force for good.