Africa’s Emerging Consumer Class

Courtesy of The Financial Times, a report on the emergence of a large consumer class in Africa.  As the article notes:

“…If you weren’t already convinced of Africa’s growth story, here’s another quote to add to the ever-growing chorus of investors keen on the continent, courtesy of Mark Richards of Actis, one of the biggest private equity funds focused on emerging markets. He tells beyondbrics that “Africa is our DNA.”

Actis has backed a 100 per cent management buyout of a leading Egyptian credit card chip maker on Tuesday. The $30m deal, which highlights the importance of the emerging African consumer, comes as private equity hawks circle the continent, and Indian and Chinese companies come rushing in.

The private equity firm, which has well over $1bn invested in the continent and manages $5bn globally, will not disclose the exact value of its acquisition of Egyptian Mediterranean Smart Cards Company. But the initial investment of $30m or so will soon be dwarfed by the $50m-$250m Actis typically throws behind its chosen investments.

Partner Mark Richards says Actis has the financial firepower and will deploy it in this new venture because it presents “enormous” opportunities in the financial payments sector.

“We think major population centres of Africa represent very deep consumer opportunities,” Richards says, highlighting that the African cards and payments sector is the “next best thing.”

MSCC, a leader in chip and pin technology in Africa, was originally set up by VISA to accelerate credit card issuance in Asia and now serves close to 80 banks across Africa. Actis, which has a history of investing in the African banking sector, feels it is well poised to assist MSCC in expanding its network.

And with 95 per cent of African financial transations still done in cash, Actis is positioning itself for a future growth market. African countries are expected to follow the trend of other emerging markets like India, of leap-frogging from cash to mobile telephony, skipping more traditional forms of financial transactions. This doesn’t faze Richards, who said he sees a proliferation in the financial sector going forward in Africa.

Actis also has a track record of investing in mobile telephony. The firm acquired pan-African mobile phone operator Celtel, which was sold to MTC of Kuwait in 2005 for $3.36bn, and later bought by Zain. Given its previous successes in the region, investors keen on Africa should watch this company.”



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Wildcats & Black Sheep is a personal interest blog dedicated to the identification and evaluation of maverick investment opportunities arising in frontier - and, what some may consider to be, “rogue” or “black sheep” - markets around the world.

Focusing primarily on The New Seven Sisters - the largely state owned petroleum companies from the emerging world that have become key players in the oil & gas industry as identified by Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent for The Financial Times - but spanning other nascent opportunities around the globe that may hold potential in the years ahead, Wildcats & Black Sheep is a place for the adventurous to contemplate & evaluate the emerging markets of tomorrow.