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The final frontier: Africa for brave investors

A growing group of fund managers are fully aware of the risky nature of African capital markets – often having themselves taken hits – but regard the opportunities as a strong counterweight to the hazards. Nick Kochan reports.

HOPE REIGNS ETERNAL for the small but growing band of investors that have bet heavily on Africa. These diehards of the fund management community have taken their blows but are still standing. Recently investors in Egypt and Tunisia were hit by the Arab Spring. Fund managers in Côte d’Ivoire were confined to their hotels while war raged around them. Investors in Zimbabwe regularly get abused by Robert Mugabe. Those committed to the Kenyan stock exchange face growing political risk. Friends of Nigerian banks have seen some of the top bankers thrown in jail, and some banks nationalized. The shocks do not stop but the conviction persists that Africa’s frontier markets – and that means everywhere except South Africa, Egypt and Morocco – hold the prospect of unusual levels of growth not to be found in more developed markets. The fund management community is voting with its feet and revisiting the African markets. Some 15 fund managers now have African funds and more are planning to launch new products. The leaders are respected managers such as Ashmore, which bought Emerging Markets Management, a US fund manager, in February this year.

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