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PICInquiry: Iqbal Survé asked: Why not Silicon Valley?

Published Apr 3, 2019


Pretoria - Emmanuel Lediga, an assistant to the commissioner Justice Lex Mpati, on Wednesday questioned businessman Dr Iqbal Survé on why Sagamartha Technologies did not seek funding in Silicon Valley where multi-sided platforms (MSPs) are understood instead of approaching the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).  

Survé, who is Executive Chairman of Sekunjalo Group and a shareholder in companies including AEEI (African Equity Empowerment Investments), AYO Technology Solutions and Independent Media, is testifying before the Mpati Commission of Inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the PIC.

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In his wide-ranging testimony which started on Monday. Survé has touched on the country’s black economic empowerment (BEE) model; the PIC’s R4.3 billion investment in AYO; the scuppered listing of Multi Sided Platform company Sagarmatha Technologies; as well as the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013. 

Testifying for the second day at the Mpati Commission of Inquiry, Survé told the hearing in Pretoria on Wednesday that the PIC could make a tremendous amount of money, diversify its exposure to risk and ensure Africans own their own data if they invested in Sagarmatha Technologies.

Survé, who confirms he is an investor in Sagarmatha (but not on the Board of Directors or part of the management team), said Sagarmatha was the equivalent of an African Amazon which had huge potential for the African continent.

Survé was responding to a line of questioning from Lediga on whether or not he should have gone to Silicon Valley in the US to get funding for Sagarmatha as “local markets do not understand” venture capital.

Sagarmatha is a company that renders a multi-sided platform (MSP), which comprises technologies, services, or products that add value primarily by enabling direct interactions between two or more participating parties.

“The  PIC is not really structured to supply venture capital especially the fact that the investments were at the early stages. They were not Uber or Lyft yet type of investments,” Lediga suggested.

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Survé disagreed.

He explained that the PIC’s biggest investment and its biggest risk was Naspers. 

“If the Chinese government decided tomorrow morning to stop gaming with young children. Naspers collapses, Tencent collapses. Whichever way you look at it they are heavily weighted in one share in the MSP space,” Survé said.

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He said Sagarmatha was a great opportunity for the PIC to diversify its risk.

“First of all they could come in at the basement level and secondly it is an African company wanting to control and own the data for Africa so that Africans can be skilled up to the MSP space and the economics for the space is for Africans themselves,” he said.

“This is the best opportunity for the PIC to make a tremendous amount of money but more than that to back an African Amazon, Alibaba, Reuters, Bloomberg (type company), because that is what we need to do as Africans. We need to own the technology space ourselves. 

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“That is so important. We cannot allow all our data, all our economic activity just to be taken from other countries. Because if we don’t do that as Africans, we won't own the economy of the future,” Survé said.


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