African equity markets experienced an unprecedented decline for just over two years following the peak of the MSCI Emerging and Frontier Markets index for Africa excluding South Africa in September 2014. This followed the collapse of the oil price from its level of over USD 100 per barrel, where it had been for more than three years, as well as weaker commodity prices in general. Investor appetite for emerging and frontier markets reduced as the underlying economies are often considered to be largely driven by commodity exports. This is true for many of these economies, but in Africa there is also a distinction to be made as many African economies are benefiting from improved demographics and better political leadership combined with better economic management.
Analysis & Strategy
Currency returns play a decisive role for US$-funded investors into African equities. To highlight some examples, the annualized total return for the FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index during the last five years in South African Rand is 13.5%, while the US$ return for the same period is 4.1%. A benchmark index for Egypt, the EGX30, has delivered an annualized total return of 26.7% in Egyptian Pounds during the same period, but in US$, this impressive return shrinks to a meagre 1.8%. Same story for Nigeria, where the Nigerian Stock Exchange Main Board Index has returned a negative annualized return of -3.6% in US$ for the last five years, while local equity investors have enjoyed a healthy 10.4%, despite a balance-of-payment crisis and the first recession since 1991. It doesn’t matter if we are comparing annualized returns in local currencies and US$ for various 10- to 20-year periods – a negative currency attribution of 5% to 10% on a yearly basis seems to be almost a rule for most African equity markets.
The slow pace of electrification is the Achilles’ heel of the African growth narrative, writes Johan Steyn, Africa Fund Manager at Prescient Investment Management
By Dmitry Fotiyev (pictured), Managing Partner; Katya Kucheriavenko, Associate, Brightmore Capital;
The current market environment in Africa is creating strong investment opportunities, write Harry Wulfsohn, Executive Director Imara Holdings Ltd (pictured) and Stuart Theobald CFA, Imara Guest Analyst
Post Mozambique’s independence from Portugal and its emergence from civil war, the government focussed on creating legal frameworks governing land while encouraging investment. The rationale behind the Mozambican Land Law and its Regulations was to protect land rights of communities, women and farmers. There is therefore no private ownership of land in Mozambique. In terms of the legal system, land and its associated resources are the property of the State and cannot be sold, mortgaged or alienated in any way. The Land Law however, provides for a lesser real right - the right to use and benefit from the land known as Direito do Uso e Aproveitamento da Terra (DUAT). DUATs provide their holders with the right to use the land for specific and authorised purposes subject to certain limitations imposed by the Land Law.
What are some of the stumbling blocks and complexities faced by private equity managers working towards an exit in Africa?
Over the last two decades, African private equity (PE) has emerged as an expanding asset class, both in funds raised and capital deployed. Last year alone 145 transactions worth a combined $3.8bn were announced. Its evolution has been underpinned by the enduring commitment of DFIs, local and international development banks and favourable growth trends, such as population growth, steady increase in disposable income, diverse (and expanding) economies, new and untapped markets - all unique to the African landscape.
Development finance institutions (DFIs) have traditionally been cornerstone investors in African private equity, helping to stimulate the local private sector by providing a way for small and medium sized enterprises to access capital. Over the past few years a few very large and well-known fund managers have been able to reach a first close without DFI capital. However, there has since been a significant downturn in macro-economic performance and an increase in instability in emerging markets that has tended to reduce global capital inflows into Africa.
For the last eight years, Mediterrania Capital Partners has focused on Capital Growth markets in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, characterized by consumption-driven economies, pro-business policies, rapid urbanization, favorable demographics, and growing consumer classes.
In 2016, African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) sold investments in three privately-concessioned toll roads in Southern Africa to a consortium of largely existing investors including Public Investment Corporation, Liberty Group, Old Mutual and Africa Finance Corporation. The sale, which was structured via the South Africa Infrastructure Fund (SAIF), represents the largest private equity realization for toll road infrastructure in Africa to date.
It has now been two and a half years since the US Dollar began its +25% appreciation and the underperformance of African equity markets feels as if it has no end. Experienced Africa hands say the past period has been one of the toughest (and probably the most disheartening) to their knowledge. Given the record number of fund closures and dismal equity returns since mid-2014 (down 45%), investors are wondering whether Africa really is “reeling” rather than “rising”.
Southern African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (SAVCA)/ Webber Wentzel PE data for the first three quarters of 2016 shows 140 deals reported across the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region. A third of these were in South Africa, but Nigeria, Kenya and Namibia also featured prominently. Statistics show a significant year-on-year increase in deal flow.
Listed equity markets in Africa (excluding South Africa) present an opportune environment to add investment-alpha (fund returns exceeding the benchmark’s returns). Public disclosures are minimal compared with developed markets, and the research burden of on-site due-diligence is high. These factors lead to relatively inefficient markets, which can be exploited by a skillful manager willing to invest the time and resources required to uncover mispricing opportunities.