Meet Tobias Ruckstuhl, Persistent Partner and CFO

March 6, 2021

It’s easy to underestimate Tobias. He is Swiss, studied in St. Gallen at HSG, is married with a kid, lives in Basel and before joining Persistent, Tobias pursued a career at Accenture. Pretty Swiss.

You wouldn’t guess that he was involved in a casino robbery – as a hostage! – or that he sold wild pineapples and later ran a car repair shop in the Central African Republic. But get a few beers with Tobias and he has stories that easily fill a long evening.

Tobias Pineapple

Tobias grew up in the Central African Republic (CAR) going to school and living everyday life with his local friends – from farming fish or crops, to collecting wild pineapples in remote rainforests to sell at the market. At age 12, he returned to Switzerland with his family which partly came as a shock. “I needed to get used to a life with a lot less freedom and a lot more rules than what I had been used to for as long as I could think of. It was a big adjustment. People used to call me ‘the African kid.'”

In fact, by the time he was 21 he missed Africa so much that he decided to return to the CAR. “They say the early years are formative and by the time I could make the decision, I was ready to return to Africa.”

Tobias CAR

Back in the CAR, Tobias worked for a safari company as CFO. You can see that on his CV, but what he only lets on after some probing is that this company in the midst of rebel activity and insecurity turned its resort into one of the largest conservation areas in Africa and that to date, is one of the largest employers in the region. “And when our operations ran out of supplies, I jumped into a Landcruiser to get them from the next market about 150 miles away. I was an entrepreneur, I felt responsible and I wanted what we did to succeed.” During his time in CAR, he saw gaps in the market and opportunities to address them, so he also started two entrepreneurial ventures of his own with local business partners, including a garage for the under-served “middle-market” and a taxi-leasing business. Entrepreneurship was in his DNA.

Tobias Upowa

What is Tobias doing at Persistent? Tobias is our CFO, looking over our financial future. Being a passionate venture builder, his main goal is to be a real partner for the entrepreneurs, working with engaged investors and stakeholders to build the impact ventures that drive the sustainable future of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In his own words, “We are all entrepreneurs at Persistent, keen to develop ourselves, bring our individual unique backgrounds and skills to build exciting companies. We have been an integral part of building the leading impact ventures in Sub-Saharan Africa and of moving the sector forward. We are happy to be the ones who take the risk and thus help others take the risk, because I truly believe that there is so much untapped potential in Africa that can be unlocked through being persistent.”