Wale Ayeni, the regional head of venture capital investments for the IFC in Africa, has left the International Finance Corporation (IFC), TechCrunch learned on Wednesday.
Ayeni, who also led the firm’s venture capital efforts, more recently in the Middle East and Central Asia, is leaving after more than five years.
The venture capital arm of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, is known to back prominent tech companies across frontier markets. It has deployed over $800 million to early- and growth-stage companies over the last decade.
Since joining in 2016, Ayeni, as one of Africa’s most influential investors, was pivotal in building the IFC’s venture capital investment practice on the continent. For four years, he led the venture capital arm and developed the IFC’s strategy of backing startups, particularly in B2B retail commerce and trade sectors.
In 2020, he moved further within the company to co-lead disruptive technologies and venture capital investments — the department handles nearly $2.5 billion assets under management in venture assets across frontier markets (Africa, China, India, Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia).
Then last November, Ayeni became head of venture capital investments across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, a post he held until his exit this month.
Under Ayeni’s watch across all three roles, the IFC backed more than a dozen African tech companies. Some of them include unicorns Andela and Wave; he led the firm’s investments in the latter, as well as Africa’s Talking, Kobo360, MaxAB, Brimore, TradeDepot, Twiga, the Philippine’s GrowSari and mobility unicorn Bolt. He is a board director on some of these startups.
The IFC is also a backer of venture capital and private equity funds that invest in other startups, technically “a fund of funds.” Some of its beneficiaries include Africa-focused funds such as Savannah Fund, Algebra Ventures, Partech, TLcom Capital, Wamda and SPE Capital.
Ayeni started his career as a microprocessor design engineer with Intel Corp. and later Qualcomm, working on “CSI” and “Snapdragon” chip architectures. He then launched his finance career with JP Morgan’s Technology Investment Banking group in San Francisco, where he executed more than $12 billion worth of closed transactions, spanning M&A to IPOs for large-cap technology clients.
Before the IFC, Wale led venture capital early-stage investments for Orange in the U.S. and was a principal advisor for early-stage pan-African fund EchoVC from 2013 to 2016. The investor, who is also a board observer on Bolt — and will most likely vacate some of these board positions following his exit from the IFC — didn’t share what he plans to do next in the note seen by TechCrunch:
After 5+ thrilling years at the IFC, last week was my last. I cannot but be grateful for the years filled with purpose, joy, learning and growth working alongside extremely talented, passionate and mission-driven colleagues focused on changing the narrative in emerging and frontier markets, with action, and through technology.
The wealth, breadth and depth of the experience was only possible by the steadfast support and belief of colleagues who saw frontier markets as a digital “opportunity”, where the possibilities are indeed exponential, if harnessed properly.
The engagements of all and sundry over the last years have definitely led to deep personal growth and development of which I am entirely grateful, and I am humbled by the extreme passion with which everyone engaged the develpment and impact dimension of what we all do.
I am entirely grateful to a lot of people who have belived in the vision, and the list is too long to mention here, but I’d be remiss not to mention Bill, Atul, Maria, Nikunj for the support through it all – and most importantly to founders in these markets who make it all happen and from whom I have learnt the most.