JOHANNESBURG, Aug 22 (Reuters)
* Standard Chartered reduces private equity Africa team
* West Africa head will also leave to launch own fund
* African economies struggling due to low commodity prices
The head of Standard Chartered's African fund, which has $800 million invested, is set to leave the bank as it trims its private equity team on the continent, its global head of private equity said on Monday.
Peter Baird, who was appointed in 2011 and has 20 years experience in private equity and investment banking, will be replaced by Ronald Tamale, a former Goldman Sachs analyst, CEO of Standard Chartered Private Equity Joe Stevens told Reuters.
Baird declined to comment. It was not clear if he quit or was removed.
African economies have struggled over the last year with lower commodity prices, rising government debt and weakening currencies.
Many of Standard Chartered's investments are in Nigeria, where subdued oil prices have pushed Africa's biggest economy to the brink of recession and banks have wrestled with acute foreign exchange shortages.
Yemi Osindero, head of Standard Chartered's West Africa private equity business, is also leaving the bank, along with his colleague Nana Dankwa, to start an independent African fund, a Standard Chartered private equity source told Reuters.
Stevens said there would now be eight Africa specialists working on its private equity business.
However, two private equity sources close to Standard Chartered's fund said there would be five staff working directly on the Africa private equity team, down from 11 a year ago.
Goldman Sachs and Blackrock are among the investors in the fund, two industry sources said.
Stevens said that the reduced staff numbers were in line with its broader strategy and its fund was performing well, despite some economic challenges in Nigeria.
"This is part of a strategy to be leaner, more efficient and more integrated," Stevens said.
"Our portfolio in Africa is in very strong shape. Africa remains a key part of our strategy."
Standard Chartered's Africa investments include Union Bank , aluminium can manufacturer GZI and gas-focused explorer, Seven Energy, all in Nigeria.
Nigerian banks have been hammered by a shrinking economy, a plunging currency and acute foreign exchange shortages.
Union Bank's share price has almost halved since January.
"The UBN share price is largely a currency issue ... we anticipate that its share price will increase significantly over time," Stevens said.
Standard Chartered's fund also invests in Choppies, a Botswana-based budget supermarket chain.
(Additional reporting by Sinead Cruise and Rachel Armstrong in London; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)