Investing in Africa

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Written By
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Written By
Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

Investing in Africa can be a lucrative opportunity for investors looking to diversify their portfolios.

The continent boasts abundant natural resources, a growing middle class, and a youthful population, creating a favorable investment climate for foreign investors.

However, investing in Africa comes with unique challenges, including political and foreign exchange risks that require careful consideration.

Political risk is one of the primary challenges when investing in Africa.

The continent has a history of political instability, which can adversely impact businesses and investments.

Therefore, it is essential to assess the political environment before investing in any African country.

Another challenge is managing foreign exchange risks.

The value of currencies in Africa can fluctuate significantly, leading to losses for investors.

Therefore, it is vital to have a sound understanding of the local currency’s dynamics and hedging strategies to mitigate this risk.

When investing in Africa, investors also need to consider whether to invest in private or public assets.

Private assets, such as real estate and private equity, provide an opportunity for higher returns but come with higher risks.

On the other hand, investing in public assets, such as stocks and bonds, offers opportunity but you may not get a very balanced geographic or sectoral allocation to the continent this way.

Despite these challenges, investing in Africa can provide diversification benefits to investors’ portfolios.

African economies are not always in sync with other global markets, so investing in Africa may potentially help to spread investment risk and reduce portfolio volatility.


Key Takeaways – Investing in Africa

  • Investing in Africa offers diversification benefits and potential for higher returns but comes with unique challenges, including political and FX risks.
  • Political instability and FX fluctuations should be carefully assessed, and private assets may provide better returns but come with higher risks.
  • Africa’s unique characteristics, including diverse monetary policies, growth drivers, and youthful population, offer opportunities for higher returns and portfolio diversification.


Political Risk

Political risk refers to the risk of loss that arises from the political instability or uncertainty in a country.

This risk is a significant concern for investors looking to invest in emerging markets like Africa, where political instability has been a historic challenge.

However, recent developments suggest that the political risk in Africa may not be what it once was.

Compared to other regions like Southeast Asia and some Western countries, Africa has made significant strides toward political stability.

In recent years, we have witnessed a growing number of peaceful transitions of power and an increase in democratic governance across the continent.

African countries have made significant progress toward political and economic reforms, which have made them more attractive to foreign investors.

A notable example of the improving political risk in Africa is the 2018 peaceful transition of power in Zimbabwe, a notable departure from how things were during the rule of Robert Mugabe (who had been ousted in a coup in 2017).

The country has since undergone significant reforms aimed at improving its business environment and attracting foreign investment.

Furthermore, many African countries showed resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governments across the continent implemented measures to support businesses and individuals, demonstrating their ability to respond to crises.

Despite the improving political climate, political risk is still a concern for investors in Africa.

The continent is diverse, and political stability varies from country to country. It is essential for investors to conduct thorough due diligence to assess the political climate in the countries they wish to invest in.


FX Risk

FX (Foreign Exchange) risk is a type of risk that arises from exposure to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates.

This risk is a significant concern for companies that conduct business across borders, including those operating in Africa.

The impact of FX risk can vary depending on the nature of the business, with some companies more susceptible than others.

For example, companies that import goods and sell them locally are at higher risk compared to companies that earn and spend money in the local currency or sell digital services globally.

This is because, in the former case, they are vulnerable to fluctuations in the exchange rate between the foreign currency and the local currency.

This can negatively impact profit margins and make it difficult for companies to plan for the future.

Moreover, companies that borrow in foreign currency and make their income in local currency are making a currency trade whether they intend to or not. If their domestic currency falls in relation to the foreign currency, it’s the equivalent of a surge in interest rates.

On the other hand, companies that earn and spend money in local currency or sell digital services globally are less exposed to FX risk.

These companies are not as affected by fluctuations in the exchange rate, as their revenue and expenses are denominated in the same currency.

This makes it easier for them to plan and forecast their cash flows and makes their business more stable.

To mitigate the impact of FX risk, companies can use several strategies.

One strategy is to use financial instruments such as forward contracts or options to hedge against currency fluctuations.

Another strategy is to optimize their operations to reduce FX exposure, such as sourcing goods and services locally rather than importing them.


Public Assets Tend to Provide Less Opportunity Relative to Private Assets

Investing in public assets, such as public equities, is a common way for investors to gain exposure to a new market.

However, when it comes to investing in Africa, public assets tend to provide less opportunity relative to private assets.

Geographic Imbalance

One of the main problems with African public equities is the geographic imbalance.

Most Africa ETFs have their allocations heavily concentrated in South African companies, with limited exposure in the rest of Africa.

This creates a lack of diversification in investors’ portfolios, which can increase the risk of investing in public equities.

Sectoral Imbalance

Furthermore, African public equities also have sector imbalance issues.

These ETFs do not have good sectoral diversification, with limited exposure to things like technology and the increasing digitalization of Africa.

This means that investors may miss out on potential growth opportunities in sectors that are driving Africa’s economic growth.

What Are Some ETFs That Specialize in African Assets?

Below are some Africa-focused ETFs:

  • VanEck Vectors Africa Index ETF (AFK)
  • iShares MSCI South Africa ETF (EZA)
  • Global X MSCI Nigeria ETF (NGE)
  • iShares MSCI All Country Asia ex Japan ETF (AAXJ)
  • Franklin FTSE South Africa ETF (FLZA)
  • iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF (FM)
  • VanEck Vectors Egypt Index ETF (EGPT)
  • iShares MSCI South Africa Small Cap ETF (EWZS)
  • VanEck Vectors Morningstar Global Wide Moat ETF (GOAT)
  • WisdomTree Middle East Dividend Fund (GULF)

Private Assets

On the other hand, private assets, such as private equity and real estate, offer investors more significant opportunities for returns.

These assets tend to provide better sectoral diversification and better exposure to emerging trends, such as the increasing digitalization of Africa.

Additionally, private assets offer investors more significant control over their investments, which can be particularly important in markets with higher levels of political and economic volatility.


Ways That Africa Provides Diversification

Africa can provide diversification benefits for investors due to its unique economic and financial characteristics.

Different Monetary Policies

One of the ways Africa provides diversification is through its monetary policy.

Unlike many developed countries where central banks operate in coordination with each other, central banks in Africa tend to operate independently.

This creates a less synchronized monetary policy environment across countries in the region.

The independence of African central banks means that monetary policies can be tailored to the specific economic needs of each country.

For example, in a country with high inflation, the central bank may increase interest rates to combat inflation, while in another country, the central bank may decrease interest rates to boost economic growth.

This allows investors to diversify their investments across different African countries with varying economic conditions.

Different Economic Growth Drivers

Another way that Africa provides diversification is through its economic growth drivers.

African countries are experiencing economic growth in different ways, from natural resource exports to technological innovation.

For example, some countries are experiencing growth in the agriculture sector, while others are experiencing growth in the technology sector.

This creates opportunities for investors to diversify their portfolios across different sectors and different countries.

Youthful and Growing Population

Furthermore, Africa’s youthful and growing population is creating opportunities for consumer-driven businesses, which is a growth area for investors.

This is particularly evident in the rise of the middle class in some African countries, which is driving demand for consumer goods and services.

Higher Expected Beta Returns

African countries are experiencing high growth rates due to several factors, including an increase in foreign investment, urbanization, and a growing middle class.

As a result, African economies are expected to grow at a faster pace than developed economies, creating opportunities for investors to achieve higher returns.

Furthermore, Africa is experiencing a technological revolution, with the increasing adoption of mobile phones and the internet.

The continent has a large, youthful population that is driving demand for technological innovation, creating opportunities for businesses to develop and expand.

As connectivity continues to expand across Africa, it is expected that technology and internet usage will continue to grow, driving economic growth and creating investment opportunities.

Moreover, the increasing connectivity and growth of the African economy are creating opportunities for cross-border trade and investment, as well as for intra-regional trade and investment.

This expansion of economic activity is expected to drive the growth of African economies, providing investors with opportunities for high returns.


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FAQs – Investing in Africa

What are the benefits of investing in Africa?

Investing in Africa offers several benefits, including:

  • higher expected returns
  • diversification of investment portfolios
  • exposure to emerging market opportunities
  • access to natural resources, and
  • growth in consumer-driven businesses

What are the risks of investing in Africa?

Investing in Africa comes with several risks, including, but not limited to:

  • political instability
  • foreign exchange risk
  • corruption
  • weak legal systems
  • lack of infrastructure, and
  • varying economic and business environments across different countries

What are the types of investments available in Africa?

The types of investments available in Africa include public equities, private equities, real estate, venture capital, and private debt.

How can investors manage political risks in Africa?

Investors can manage political risks in Africa by conducting thorough due diligence, diversifying their investments across different African countries, building relationships with local partners, and investing in private assets, such as real estate or private equity.

What are the most promising sectors for investment in Africa?

The most promising sectors for investment in Africa include technology, consumer goods, infrastructure, healthcare, and renewable energy.

How can investors access African markets?

Investors can access African markets through exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, and individual stocks traded on African stock exchanges.

Private equity and real estate investments can also provide access to African markets.

What are the tax implications of investing in Africa?

The tax implications of investing in Africa depend on the country of investment and the type of investment.

Investors should consult with a tax advisor to understand the tax implications of their investments.

How can investors mitigate foreign exchange risk when investing in Africa?

Investors can mitigate foreign exchange risk when investing in Africa by hedging their currency exposure, using financial instruments such as forward contracts or options, or investing in assets whose revenues, expenses, assets, and liabilities are denominated in local currency.

How can investors identify investment opportunities in Africa?

Investors can identify investment opportunities in Africa by conducting thorough research on the country, industry, and company, building relationships with local partners, attending industry conferences and events, and working with reputable local advisors.



Investing in Africa presents opportunities for investors seeking diversification, higher returns, and exposure to emerging markets.

However, investing in Africa comes with unique challenges, including political instability, foreign exchange risk, corruption, weak legal systems and institutions, and different economic and business environments across different countries.

To mitigate these risks, investors need to conduct thorough due diligence, build relationships with local partners, diversify their investments, and invest in private assets.

The most promising sectors for investment in Africa include technology, consumer goods, infrastructure, and healthcare.

With the right approach, investing in Africa can be a promising opportunity for investors looking to diversify their portfolios and tap into the continent’s potential for growth and development.