When I decided to launch the podcast, I wanted today’s interviewee — Roger Leeds — to be one of the first guests. And I wanted to explore the theme of private equity and its role in private sector development in emerging and frontier markets.
A bit of background may be helpful.
15 years ago or so I was working for the Department of Defense on strategies to address a variety of intractable issues.
For one such issue, I was the youngest member of an interagency team working with senior civilian and military commanders in Baghdad and Kabul on interior ministry and police reform. U.S. policymakers had dubbed 2006 the “Year of the Police,” but as the year passed by, the results trickled in; and I grew increasingly skeptical about the ability of the United States to effect positive and enduring change in Iraq.
Moreover, when viewed in a broader perspective of state-building, counterterrorism and U.S. national security objectives, I became convinced that the only viable long-term solution was to drive investment into the region, create jobs and, over time, generate licit opportunities for people to feed their families.
So, it was off to grad school to study economics and finance, where I serendipitously learned about something called private equity and how it could drive private sector development in emerging markets.
Roger Leeds taught that course. He had a profound influence on me when I was a student at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and his positive influence endures to this day.
Roger worked as an international financier for 25 years before joining the faculty at SAIS. After working as an investment banker at Salomon Brothers, Roger was at the forefront of the development of the emerging market private equity industry, not only as a senior staff member at the International Finance Corporation, but also as a private equity investor, and as the co-founder of the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA).
Roger is the author of Private Equity Investing in Emerging Markets: Opportunities for Value Creation — the seminal book on the topic, which I encourage every listener to pick up and read.
In our discussion today, we talk about the structural drivers that make private equity a useful investment strategy in emerging markets, and how it is qualitatively different than the leveraged buyout model that is prevalent in the United States and Western Europe.
We also talk about the hollowing out of mid-market PE funds in emerging markets and why it’s a problem, the story of local currency PE funds in China, and his work with Francis Fukuyama on the Leadership Academy for Development, among other things.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
This podcast was recorded in July 2020.