Brown Venture Group (BVG), a Minneapolis-based venture capital company that has as its primary mission funding Black, Latino, and Indigenous companies in the tech sector recently closed on an investment in The Pula Group, a Los Angeles-based company that is involved in mineral exploration in Africa.
Pula is the only American mineral exploration company operating in Tanzania and the only African American-owned mineral exploration company operating on the entire continent of Africa. Pula is also one of the few foreign companies active in Tanzania in which Tanzanians have a significant equity interest. Tanzanians have a 50% equity stake in Pula’s Tanzanian graphite and gold subsidiaries.
Pula has five exploration licenses in Tanzania. Four are in the graphite rich Ruangwa region and the other is in the Lake Victoria Gold Fields.
Australians dominate the exploration sector in Tanzania, representing 52% of the exploration companies in the country and Canadians represent 18%. Currently Tanzanians, or companies with a substantial Tanzanian interest, represent only 4% of the companies doing mineral exploration in Tanzania.
The Pula Group’s mission, it says, is to establish Africa as a source for minerals for e-vehicle batteries, fuel cells, and other clean energy technologies making it “one of the most progressive Western corporations doing business on the African continent”.
Explaining why Brown Ventures Group invested in Pula, Dr. Chris Brooks, a BVG founding partner, said, “Advances in the greening of the global energy supply requires development and innovation in various technologies. The starting point of a vertically integrated strategy begins with minerals, among which graphite is key. “Our investment in Pula positions our company on the front end of the value chain and positions Pula and Africa to be on the cutting edge as the greening of the globe’s energy supply gains even more momentum.”
Getting the ‘hard money’
Pula Chairman Ambassador Charles Stith, said, “We are absolutely elated that BVG has made this investment in our company. Their values and objectives align perfectly with our values and needs.
“This investment enables us to beef up our capacity as a company. We obviously have to raise money to develop the individual projects in our portfolio. One of our priority projects will require nearly $100 Million dollars to become fully operational. At that level, projects are funded primarily with debt.
“That’s the easy money. The hard money is seven figure investments like that which BVG has made in Pula that enables us keep control of the company at this stage and build out the company so that we’re in a position to go to the market to raise the larger sums of money we need.”
Dr. Mary Mildred Stith, Pula President and one of the few women mining executives in the world, had this to add: “BVG’s investment in the Pula Group could not have come at a more opportune time. The clean energy transition is well under way, as evidenced by California’s recent requirement to only allow the purchase of e-vehicles or hybrids by 2035. Pula’s partnership with BVG enables us to continue to innovate and lead in this space.
“Pula is committed to a new, ethical model for exploration and mining in Africa. Our business model is consistent with the values of the clean energy transition taking place.”
In 2018, the United States Government declared graphite an essential mineral because of its importance in manufacturing next generation batteries needed for energy storage as well as other commercial and strategic interests. There are currently no graphite producing mines in the US.
Dr. Stith also noted, “In December, the Biden Administration will host a US- Africa Leaders Summit. Having an African American company doing business in Africa, with a corporate philosophy of “doing well, while doing good” could not reflect any better on America and African American companies interested in playing a more important role in Africa’s growth and development.
In the same way that the Irish Diaspora helped jumpstart Northern Ireland’s economy and the Jewish Diaspora has assisted Israel’s economic growth and development, as an African American owned company, we view Pula’s entry into Africa as having the same sort of potential.”
Pula is headquartered in Los Angeles and has offices in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Johannesburg (South Africa). The company was founded more than a decade ago by Ambassador Charles Stith. Stith served as the US Ambassador to Tanzania during the Clinton Administration.
SOURCE: NEW AFRICA