James Duddridge MP: Why I am investing in 12 companies in Africa (next stop Nigeria and Kenya)
In July I invested £1,000 in Wilderness Safaris; a company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange and wrote about the investment in a Conservative Home article
The £1,000 has been eroded by charges and taxes to £910 and the share price has not moved, however this was the start of a longer term piece of work. It is the first of twelve investments in twelve different African companies, in twelve countries, in twelve sectors by investing in shares listed on one of the fourteen African stock exchanges.
Africa need not just be viewed through the prism of charity, aid and trade. Through investing I want to challenge perceptions and make a point that Africa is a place of opportunity.
For the next investment I looked to Nigeria. A friend put me in touch with Bola Adeeko – a Nigerian who returned home having worked in banking on Wall Street and is now part of the team that runs the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Bola is one of many that want to succeed in Africa rather than settle elsewhere. I have discovered a name for this phenomenon “˜inpats’ – or returning expats. If Bola is a good measure of Nigerian talent there is lots of potential in the country.
I intended to invest in a consumer sector share that sells products that would be purchased by the rising middle class in Nigeria. I researched Unilever Nigeria, seeking comfort in investing in a familiar name in an unfamiliar market. However, having reviewed the broker’s reports many people have been doing the same and despite this sector looking like it had a large long term growth it also looked over valued in the shorter term. I therefore ended up investing in a conglomerate, United Africa Company of Nigeria plc, which covers a number of sectors including cars, property, supermarket and fast food.
Whilst I do not expect this to be a star investment, Nigeria has the largest population in Africa and it is growing fast. A broad investment over a number of sectors should produce a steady growth in return for shareholders over a longer period.
I think the staff at my bank were a little bemused as to why the local MP wanted to send money to Nigeria, but I explained the project to them and I think they understood. There was a certain look that said “a fool and his money are easily parted”. Time will tell.
I then set off to Kenya to invest in East Africa. My wife grew up there and remembered Tusker (a beer brand) despite only being a teenager at the time. I had sampled the product elsewhere, a little fuzzy as to exactly where, and understand the beer can now be found on the shelves in Tesco. Having seen the logo on t-shirts in the UK and elsewhere in Africa I felt there was a decent brand value which would benefit from the consumption of a rising middle class.
Tusker represents about a third of the turnover of East African Breweries, which is in turn part-owned by Diageo. The company also has revenues from Uganda and Tanzania. I managed to meet with James Pennefather, Group Strategy Director and was impressed with the direction in which the company is going, even though I did not get to sample the product whilst we met. I think he was rather shocked to meet a British MP wanting to invest but welcomed the interest.
So three investments made, nine to go. The next investment is in a Bank I was once asked to run after a civil war. Alas, my firm banned me from going due to the reputational risk to the bank if something adverse happened to me. This bank is now the only company listed on this country’s stock exchange. A free bottle of Tusker to the first person who can name the country!
James Duddridge is the Member of Parliament for Rochford and Southend East. He is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Africa.