Private equity investors are back in the African market with money to spare

By Roxanne Henderson

(Bloomberg) – Private-equity investors in southern Africa are closing deals again after a virus-induced lull, tapping a cash pile that stood at more than R30bn ($2bn) in June, according to an industry association.

Businesses in the education, health care and retail sectors operating online are among the top picks for investors seeking to take advantage of market gaps amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, Tanya van Lill, chief executive officer of the Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, said by phone.

“From a venture-capital perspective, we are seeing a lot of activity in East Africa and West Africa, specifically in Nigeria and Kenya, where there has been investment in the fintech, agritech and insuretech space,” Van Lill said. “From a private-equity perspective, it’s fairly equal across the continent, though we are seeing a lot of activity in North Africa.”

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Prior to the pandemic, private-equity capital was increasingly allocated to infrastructure and energy projects in the region. However, lockdown restrictions imposed as a result of the virus meant firms couldn’t get on the ground to perform due diligence processes and close deals. They also battled to raise funds and sell out of investments, Van Lill said.

The association, which counts FirstRand’s Rand Merchant Bank, and Ninety One among its members, found in a survey that last year there was at least R30bn in private-equity capital available for investment. Its members collectively manage about R185bn in assets.

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