Committed, experienced
specialists

The Team


Board of Directors

Alan Bernstein

Founder and Executive Chairman

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Alan Bernstein

Founder and Executive Chairman

Alan Bernstein is a pioneer of conservation-led development, having founded, invested in and successfully scaled a series of award-winning sustainable development enterprises in Africa, South America, South-East Asia and Europe over the past 30 years. He has led teams in developing new approaches to climate finance, particularly through the securitisation of environmental rights and emerging capital market mechanisms for investment in forest land conservation.

In 1989, Alan founded a financial advisory firm specialised in structuring foreign direct investment into sub-Saharan Africa, evolving new instruments for converting sovereign debt into long term investment. The following year, he established Conservation Corporation Africa, which grew into the leading ecotourism operator on the continent. Under his leadership the company pioneered public private partnerships in ecotourism and conservation-led development and grew to over 3,000 employees, operating 40+ ecotourism businesses and related conservation development programmes across six countries in East and Southern Africa.

Alan also co-founded SFM Ltd, a specialist global developer of sustainable forestry projects and terrestrial carbon offset development, building a portfolio of investments in Africa, South America, Indonesia and Australasia. He holds an MSc in Engineering and an MBA from INSEAD.

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John Dennis

Director

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John Dennis

Director

John is Managing Partner at Hambleden Capital, the investment arm of the Sarikhani Family, specialising in direct investments in financial services, impact investing, VC and PE positions, property and hotels. John started his career as a strategy consultant at Accenture, but has spent the last 15 years as a principal corporate finance executive. He has significant experience in corporate strategy and deal execution in the UK, Africa, the US, Asia and Western Europe, including in company valuation, business modelling, executive communication, due diligence and contract negotiations. Before joining Hambleden Capital, John was the global head of Barclays Corporate Development. His M&A track record covers transactions valued in excess of £10 billion, which include Barclays’ acquisition of Lehman Brothers during the financial crisis, their investment in a South African peer-to-peer lending platform and acquisitions of a carbon emissions origination business for £100 million and a £1 billion store card credit portfolio of a major South African retail company.

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Ann Frick

Director

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Ann Frick

Director

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Kevin Leo-Smith

Director

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Kevin Leo-Smith

Director

Kevin Leo-Smith has extensive experience in developing and growing conservation-based tourism projects. In the late 1980s, he developed the idea behind Phinda Game Reserve, achieving the then biggest private conversion of land use from agriculture to conservation in South Africa, and formed its parent company Conservation Corporation Africa with Alan Bernstein and others, where he was responsible for development and operations until 1996. After four years Conservation Corporation Africa was operating in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania and employed 2,000 staff. In 1997, Kevin established Kwando Safaris from scratch with a partner, constructing 5 luxury camps in Botswana’s Okavango region on over 400,000 hectares of private concession. In 2006, he co-founded SFM Africa with Alan Bernstein, creating and operating projects in Gabon, Guinea and Rwanda. Most of the projects had a safari tourism component as well as forestry and agriculture. He is the co-founder and partner of Safari Investments Advisory and the CEO of immedia, a South African cloud-computing platform.

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Brian Menell

Director

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Brian Menell

Director

Brian Menell is a British/South African industrialist and investor with natural resource and energy projects across both emerging and developed markets.

He is the Chairman and CEO of TechMet Limited, a private industrial company building a portfolio of world-class assets to secure supply of the metals critical to EV’s and Renewable Energy systems.   The company is focussed on projects which produce, process or recycle these “Technology Metals”, and currently has operations in North America, South America, and Africa.

Brian is also the principal of the Kemet Group. Kemet is a private group which invests in and manages a range of natural resource projects in East, Central and West Africa, ranging from base metals and gold, to forestry and agri-industry.  The group also advises certain governments on resource policy and strategic transactions.

Brian serves as the CEO of Tinco Investments Ltd, an integrated Tin and Tungsten producer in Rwanda. He is a former Principal and Executive Director of Anglovaal Mining (AVMIN) with extensive Base Metal, Precious Metal and Ferrous Metal interests across Southern Africa, and a former Director of Anglovaal Ltd, a diversified industrial and mining holding company.  Prior to Anglovaal, Brian spent 8 years with the De Beers Group.

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Nima Sarikhani

Director

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Nima Sarikhani

Director

Nima is Managing Partner at Hambleden Capital, the investment arm of the Sarikhani Family, specialising in direct investments in financial services, impact investing, VC and PE positions, property and hotels. Since joining the family office in 2011, Nima has held a series of directorships and senior positions in a number of financial services companies in London and Switzerland. As a successful angel investor he has built a portfolio of circa 20 VC/PE positions in a variety of sectors with a focus on FinTech, InsureTech, DTC and Impact investments. Prior to that he spent eight years as a derivatives trader with ABN AMRO and subsequently RBS in London, where he was the Co-Head of Retail Structured Equity Trading managing a portfolio of over £3 billion in AUM. He holds a First Class degree in Econometrics & Mathematical Economics from the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE).

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Guy Weston

Director

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Guy Weston

Director

Guy is Chairman of the Garfield Weston Foundation. A grandson of Garfield Weston and son of the late Garry Weston, Guy studied at Oxford University and INSEAD. His career began in investment banking, Morgan Grenfell & Co Ltd, before he moved to Associated British Foods plc where he became the Managing Director of Jacksons of Piccadilly and The Ryvita Co Ltd.  He is Chairman of the Garfield Weston Trust for Westminster Abbey, former Chairman of the Westminster Abbey Development Appeal and of the Bodleian Library Development Committee and is a trustee of the Thrombosis Research Institute. 

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Leadership Team

Alan Bernstein

Founder and Executive Chairman

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Alan Bernstein

Founder and Executive Chairman

Alan Bernstein is a pioneer of conservation-led development, having founded, invested in and successfully scaled a series of award-winning sustainable development enterprises in Africa, South America, South-East Asia and Europe over the past 30 years. He has led teams in developing new approaches to climate finance, particularly through the securitisation of environmental rights and emerging capital market mechanisms for investment in forest land conservation.

In 1989, Alan founded a financial advisory firm specialised in structuring foreign direct investment into sub-Saharan Africa, evolving new instruments for converting sovereign debt into long term investment. The following year, he established Conservation Corporation Africa, which grew into the leading ecotourism operator on the continent. Under his leadership the company pioneered public private partnerships in ecotourism and conservation-led development and grew to over 3,000 employees, operating 40+ ecotourism businesses and related conservation development programmes across six countries in East and Southern Africa.

Alan also co-founded SFM Ltd, a specialist global developer of sustainable forestry projects and terrestrial carbon offset development, building a portfolio of investments in Africa, South America, Indonesia and Australasia. He holds an MSc in Engineering and an MBA from INSEAD.

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Annie Blondel

Ecotourism Market Development Executive

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Annie Blondel

Ecotourism Market Development Executive

Annie Blondel specialises in stakeholder relations and institutional affairs, having trained as a diplomat in Europe and Africa. She has over 15 years’ experience in promoting tourism and culture, sustainable development, and luxury hospitality services.

Annie started her career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gabon in 2004, working directly with the Head of State, Minister, and high-ranking diplomats. She joined the Office of the President of the Gabonese Republic in 2009 as an Advisor of the President and consulted on a series of high profile public-private partnership projects and foreign direct investments related to education, tourism development, conservation and culture. As a tourism development advisor, she has worked with pioneers in the sector, including renowned architects, researchers, NGOs and long-established companies in the fields of luxury tourism and conservation.

Beyond her core professional activities, Annie also founded an art gallery dedicated to the promotion of young African artists and the enhancement of African culture. She holds a degree in Modern Languages from the University of Granada and completed training in Institutional Relations, Protocol and Events at the Escuela International de Protocolo de Granada. Annie speaks French, Spanish, Italian and English.

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Pierre Blondel

Managing Director, Gabon

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Pierre Blondel

Managing Director, Gabon

Pierre Blondel is responsible for managing the investment and implementing the development of the Grande Mayumba project. Pierre has extensive experience in Gabon’s forestry and timber processing industry and in Gabon more broadly, having first arrived in the country in 2004 when he was appointed General Manager to establish and grow a greenfield timber business exporting to several countries. In this role, he was responsible for all management operations related to forestry, transport, logistics, sales and export. He has also worked for several businesses in the timber trade in France. In 2011, he was appointed Country Manager for SFM Africa in Gabon.

In this role, he was responsible for all management, administrative, financial and operational functions, including engagement with local and national stakeholders. After just a year, the business grew to employ over 100 staff in different sites, with a significant positive impact on the local community. Pierre holds degrees in Civil Engineering and Timber and Forestry Engineering.

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Federico Castelnuovo

Director, African Equatorial Hardwoods

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Federico Castelnuovo

Director, African Equatorial Hardwoods

Federico Castelnuovo is the Managing Director of Corà Italy and the Director of Corà Wood Gabon. Between 2006 and 2011, he was a minority shareholder and the managing director of a tropical forest sustainable management company operating in Cameroon and the DRC. Federico has experience working in many different industries – including in natural resources, engineering, luxury and hospitality – and in a variety of capacities, as CEO, CFO, consultant or manager. His work has taken him to Africa, Europe, the Far East, and across the Anglo-Saxon world. Among his specialist skills are special situation management and financing, as well as change management and cost efficiency. Federico holds an advanced degree in Social and Economic Sciences from Bocconi University in Milan.

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Marie-Yvonne Charlemagne

External Counsel, African Equatorial Hardwoods

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Marie-Yvonne Charlemagne

External Counsel, African Equatorial Hardwoods

Marie-Yvonne created MYA PARTNERS, a strategic consultancy dedicated to companies investing in Africa with a focus on agriculture, forestry and waste management. African Conservation Development Group will benefit from her deep knowledge and hands-on experience in the African markets in the areas of finance, management and ESG.

Marie-Yvonne has been involved in the African continent since she started her career at PwC, where she worked for over ten years in auditing in France and Gabon. In 1999, Marie-Yvonne joined Rougier, a family-owned Euronext forestry company with operations in Central Africa of which 50% hold FSC certification, first as Group CFO and as of 2015 as Group Deputy CEO. She also held various mandates with group subsidiaries and led their strategic positioning with African governments and professional associations.

Since December 2019, she has been Independent Director of Vilmorin (4th largest global seeding group) and chaired its audit and risk committees.

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Stefano Corà

Director, African Equatorial Hardwoods

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Stefano Corà

Director, African Equatorial Hardwoods

Stefano Corà is representing the third generation of the Corà family, which has been involved for more than a century in timber processing and the forest products trading business. Corà Domenico & Figli S.p.A. is one of the leading companies in this sector in Italy and currently has a turnover of €90 million, with manufacturing facilities in Italy and Gabon and forest products sold all around the world.

Stefano is the Vice-President of Corà and focuses on the African operations of the group. Starting with audit missions in 1994, he has amassed a vast amount of experience in running timber-related operations in Africa, including in sustainable forest management and timber primary and secondary processing. In the late 1990s, he participated in the takeover of Corà’s two biggest competitors in the Italian market, and in 2001 he took part in the privatization of the formerly state-owned Compagnie Forestière du Gabon, where he was a resident as General Manager of Corà Wood Gabon from 2004 to 2006. He also developed the investment strategy for timber processing and logistics facilities for the Corà group in Italy, Eastern Europe and Gabon. This included the related real estate development plan, worth more than €100 million in transactions, and the logistics services for the oil and gas industry in Port Gentil, Gabon.

Since 2012, Stefano has been Honorary Consul of the Gabonese Republic for the regions of Venice and Milan and has attended many high-level diplomatic meetings between the Gabonese and Italian governments. Stefano holds a degree in Marketing and Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan.

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Jane Edge

Communications Director

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Jane Edge

Communications Director

Jane has a background in environmental journalism and has spent 30 years as a marketing and communications executive in the wildlife conservation, tourism, sustainable development and financial services sectors. She has held senior marketing and communication positions at Conservation Corporation Africa (now &Beyond), Brunswick (a global financial PR agency), Nedbank and African Parks, and was most recently CEO of Fair Trade Tourism, which certifies tourism businesses in Africa against sustainability criteria. She worked on a consultancy basis for the IUCN, UNDP and GEF during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, and to promote responsible tourism principles to the SA tourism sector. She also worked for several years with the JSE and Deutsche Bank to promote Exchange Traded Funds in South Africa. She has held board positions at Fair Trade Tourism and the Tourism Business Council for South Africa.

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Kevin Leo-Smith

Project Development Director

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Kevin Leo-Smith

Project Development Director

Kevin Leo-Smith has extensive experience in developing and growing conservation-based tourism projects. In the late 1980s, he developed the idea behind Phinda Game Reserve, achieving the then biggest private conversion of land use from agriculture to conservation in South Africa, and formed its parent company Conservation Corporation Africa with Alan Bernstein and others, where he was responsible for development and operations until 1996. After four years Conservation Corporation Africa was operating in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania and employed 2,000 staff. In 1997, Kevin established Kwando Safaris from scratch with a partner, constructing 5 luxury camps in Botswana’s Okavango region on over 400,000 hectares of private concession. In 2006, he co-founded SFM Africa with Alan Bernstein, creating and operating projects in Gabon, Guinea and Rwanda. Most of the projects had a safari tourism component as well as forestry and agriculture. He is the co-founder and partner of Safari Investments Advisory and the CEO of immedia, a South African cloud-computing platform.

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Natalie Maule

External Affairs Advisor

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Natalie Maule

External Affairs Advisor

Natalie designs and directs external affairs strategy and engagement for the Group.

She has over 15 years’ experience delivering effective communications and engagement strategies for large scale, complex investment and transformation programmes in Africa.

After joining strategic advisory firm Africa Practice in London, Natalie moved to Kenya to establish the company’s East Africa operations and built the business there for seven years before returning to London to lead the UK & International team. She is currently a Director with group-level responsibility for consulting best practice.

Natalie has advised corporate leaders across a range of sectors including private equity, development finance, agribusiness, infrastructure, mining, energy and FMCG and has consulted for several African Governments at Head of State and Ministerial level as well as leading international and African philanthropic foundations. Natalie has worked in over a dozen African countries and holds a First in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford.

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Don Millar

Chief Financial Officer

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Don Millar

Chief Financial Officer

Don Millar is an experienced corporate finance professional, having worked on numerous financial advisory mandates across Africa across a wide range of industries. In 2001 he founded Clarity Group, an independent advisory business, to advise clients on private equity transactions, capital raisings, valuations, mergers & acquisitions and black economic empowerment. Prior to this, he worked as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte and was a Director at Bridge Capital. Don has a passion for wildlife and the bush and is the co-founder of Safari Investment Advisory. In this capacity, he has been involved in numerous safari tourism and related businesses in South Africa and across the continent, having advised on numerous transactions in West and East Africa. He has also advised a number of clients in the infrastructure space, including a South African solar company for their capital raising and acted as an advisor to a South African private equity firm specialising in real estate and renewables projects. Don studied at the University of Cape Town and is a Chartered Accountant.

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Rob Morley

Science and Environmental Planning Director

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Rob Morley

Science and Environmental Planning Director

Dr. Rob Morley has extensive experience in conservation and landscape ecology. He has worked across Africa, most notably in Southern Africa, as a park ecologist, wildlife specialist and as the owner of an environmental consultancy in Mozambique. Rob joined SFM Africa in 2007 as a Programme Manager, responsible for scoping projects in East and Southern Africa with an emphasis on land use planning and landscape ecology. He was instrumental in developing Grande Mayumba’s conservation management and tourism management plans. He has also worked with the UNDP in Cote d’Ivoire and Cambodia. Rob brings a wealth of experience in ensuring scientific and business stakeholders are aligned in the sustainable use and value of natural capital. He is a British citizen and has been based in Africa for the last 20 years. He holds a Master’s degree in Wildlife Management and a Zoology Ph.D focused on elephant population dynamics. He is the author of several published papers.

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Josh Ponte

Creative Director

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Josh Ponte

Creative Director

In 2001, Josh Ponte swapped a successful corporate career in the UK for a rainforest in Gabon. Whilst living amongst sixteen gorillas, a handful of scientists had helped the government create a network of national parks protecting more than eleven percent of the country. Josh turned his focus to support their efforts by creating a media unit to disseminate information both locally and internationally. He has spent nearly two decades creating work relating to Gabon and its people, specialising in conservation and communities. In 2004, a visit to the communities living adjacent to the parks turned into a cultural odyssey. Josh and his team recorded and filmed more than 150 hours of ceremonies, interviews and music that became an award-winning documentary and the basis of one of the most important collections of national cultural artefacts. The project’s significance was recognised when Ponte was nominated to the National Geographic roster of explorers. In 2009, he was named special advisor to the new President of the Republic and the First Lady and curated the exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Independence. In 2012/13 Josh traveled to every corner of the country with 6 world renowned photographers to document the diversity of Gabon. The collection has been included in the most prestigious exhibitions and prizes of contemporary photography. He continues to deliver projects, consult for companies and assist media productions in Gabon.

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Martijn Wilder

Environmental Markets & Legal Counsel

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Martijn Wilder

Environmental Markets & Legal Counsel

Martijn Wilder AM is the Founding Partner of Pollination. He has worked on climate finance, investment, law and policy for over 20 years.  He was chair of Low Carbon Australia, a founding board member of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and is the current Chair of ARENA. Martijn has advised numerous international, Australian federal and state governments on climate law and policy. He led the 2015 independent Review of the Victorian Climate Change Act. He has been a leader in developing innovative financing ideas to help drive investment into decarbonisation including the Fiji government’s Green Bond and the USD 150m BHP-IFC forest Bond. He is currently advising on investment in industrial decarbonisation. Martijn has retained over many years the accolade of the world’s leading climate change lawyer and the Star Individual by Chambers Global Law Guide. Martijn was head of Baker & McKenzie’s global climate law and finance practice for 20 years. He is currently also President of WWF-Australia and Chair of NSW Climate Change Council and a Director of the Climate Council. He is a Visiting professor of climate change law and the Australian National University.

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