Mark, do you think the view of Africa as a corrupt place still puts people off investing?
Mark Dampier: Absolutely. It’s mainly a Western media thing, although some of it may be true. It’s going to be hard to dislodge people from that view. Twenty-five years ago when I first saw and liked the concept of emerging markets, there were all sorts of political and economic problems in those countries, but here we are 25 years later: emerging markets have become mainstream.
Africa is where global emerging markets were perhaps 20 years or so ago. If Anthony’s right, what a fascinating area to invest in. However, if you are investing purely in Africa it should probably be a very small part of a larger portfolio and one you would put in the bottom drawer and hold for the next 20 years. I wouldn’t be trying to trade in and out of Africa because I don’t think that’s the way to look at it.
Anthony, are there any particular countries you would pick out as offering the best opportunities?
Anthony Eaton: Our interests lie in sub-Saharan Africa, not in North Africa. The two regions are very different. We are interested in the middle belt of countries such as Nigeria, Congo and Kenya, where we see the most progress.
South Africa has political issues; they’re not as bad as they are represented in the Western media, but they do exist. South Africa also has a relatively small population (around 50 million whereas Nigeria has around 160 million people with an average age below 20, so it is much more exciting).
In addition, it’s worth pointing out the comparison between Africa now and Asia 20 years ago. Twenty years ago Asians were slaughtering each other in the Mekong Delta; the continent was at war until very recently. Countries like the Philippines and Indonesia, which are now go-to areas for investment, were run by dictators. In Africa today there are no large-scale wars at all. Most of the countries in Africa are democracies and most have had several elections by now, including DRC.
Katie, I know you are particularly interested in Nigeria as an investment opportunity. Why is that?
Katie Koch: Yes, absolutely. I think investors sometimes make the mistake of looking at Africa as homogenous. In the north you have countries that are more tied to the Middle East, in the very south you have South Africa, which is a much more mature economy, and has a much less exciting demographic profile. Then you have a huge range of other countries across sub-Saharan Africa and by far the one we’re most excited about is Nigeria.
Investing by definition is a forward-looking endeavour. When we look at which countries are going to matter most to the world in the future, Nigeria is one of them. It has 160 million people with a median age of 19, so it is incredibly attractive demographically. We think it’s one of the countries most likely to rank among the BRICs in terms of importance to the global economy in the future.