So much of the news from Africa is so discouraging that itâ€™s easy to overlook the real progress unfolding there. Thereâ€™s high-profile philanthropy from the Gates Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative, of course, as well as quieter efforts by people like Mark Schwartz, a former Goldman Sachs partner who is now chair of MissionPoint Capital Partners. We met the other day and he told me just a bit about the great work heâ€™s doing with Harvard Medical School to help AIDS patients in KwaZulu Natal, South Africaâ€”itâ€™s so low key that you canâ€™t find it on the web. Then there are groups like the Acumen Fund and Trickle Up (nepotism alert!), where my daughter Sarah works on microenterprise programs in West and East Africa. All encouraging.
Whatâ€™s even more encouraging is to see African businesses starting to thrive. Thatâ€™s the topic of this weekâ€™s Sustainability column, which looks at a private equity fund called Emerging Capital Partners that has done very well by investing in Africa.
Hereâ€™s how it begins:
Read the news about civil war in Kenya, unrest in Chad, or genocide in Darfur, and you could conclude that Africa is no place to invest money.
But behind the headlines lies business opportunity. Africa’s economy is growing at 5 to 6% a year. Inflation is down. Prices are rising for commodities like oil, copper and gold.
Like all emerging markets, Africa is a risky place to invest but “the perceived risk is greater than the actual risk,” says Tom Gibian, the chief executive of Emerging Capital Partners (ECP), a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on Africa.
The firm has invested more than $1.2 billion in several Africa funds since 1999. It has invested in 48 companies, exited from 18, recouped more than $600 million and posted an average return of three times its initial investment. “The financial performance has been terrific,” Gibian says.
You can read the rest here.